On Wednesday, Australian resident Shonica Guy filed a lawsuit in Australia’s Federal Court alleging that she suffered significant financial losses playing the pokies over the past 14 years because the machines “deliberately give people false hope that they have a chance of winning to keep them playing.”
The suit focuses on one particular Aristocrat machine called Dolphin Treasure, reportedly selected because it boasts several potentially deceptive features. For instance, the device features five reels, four of which feature the same number of winning symbols while the fifth displays just one, a discrepancy the suit claims isn’t evident to the average player.
The suit also takes issue with the pokies industry’s claims that the machines return an average of 85% of stakes to players. The suit argues that this is an misleading statistic, as it’s entirely possible for a player to lose their entire stake in a few spins without receiving any cash back from the machine.
Pokies are by far the dominant form of gambling in Australia. There are around 200k pokies in Aussie casinos, clubs and pubs, making the country second only to Italy in the number of gaming machines per capita.
Guy is represented in the suit by the law firm of Maurice Blackburn, which has been looking to take the pokies industry down for over a year. The lawsuit has the support of the Alliance for Gambling Reform. Last month, Australia’s anti-gambling politicians offered whistle-blower protections to any pokies insiders who came forward with dirt on the industry.
In response to the suit, Crown said it intends to “vigorously defend” itself against any claims of deception. Aristocrat said it “emphatically rejects any suggestion that its games are designed to encourage problem gambling, or in any way fail to comply with all relevant regulations and laws.”
The Gaming Technologies Association issued a statement defending the pokies industry, saying the machines were “a legitimate recreational activity that many Australians enjoy responsibly” while praising Australia for boasting “one of the most stringent regulatory environments for poker machines in the world.”