Norway is the only country in the world to introduce mandatory pre-commitment.
It has been our position that as people suffering from an addiction, problem gamblers would not set realistic spending limits on their spending, but even if they did, they would seek to subvert the system, either by obtaining multiple cards or by migrating to other forms of gambling, particularly internet gambling.
The latest research from Norway shows this is exactly what happens under mandatory pre-commitment.
A survey of problem gamblers, commissioned by the Norwegian Government, has seen an increase in the percentage of people with a severe gambling problem, from 1.3 percent in 2007 (just before mandatory pre-commitment was introduced) to 2.1 percent in 2010.
To quote media reports:
"The situation has not improved, it has become worse. Not only has the number of serious problem gamblers increased sharply from 2007, it is also considerably higher than it was in 2005- the year when the number of slot machines was at its highest in Norway."
The Chair of Norsk Tipping, the Government agency that owns and operates slot machines, said the increase in problem gambling was a result of problem gamblers transferring to other forms of gambling, including sports wagering and online gaming.
If the result of the Norwegian approach has seen an increase in problem gambling levels, it would be prudent for the Australian Government to pause and, at the very least, conduct a thorough trial of mandatory pre-commitment in an Australian jurisdiction, before proceeding with expensive and unproven reforms.
It is worth noting that the Norwegian Government failed to undertake any trials before implementing their changes, and the consequences of what actually happens when Government intervenes in an attempt to control people's behaviour is an apt lesson for Australia.