The case: Machines alleged to contravene the Australian Consumer Law
The case alleges that the ‘Dolphin Treasure’ poker machine designed by Aristocrat and operated by Crown Casino is unlawful under Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Australian Consumer Law is designed to protect consumers from misleading or deceptive conduct, and from ‘unconscionable conduct’.
The case alleges that the following features or characteristics of the ‘Dolphin Treasure’ poker machine contravene the ACL:
Most people would reasonably assume the ‘reels’ of spinning symbols would be the same size. In fact, the last reel is larger than the others, reducing the likelihood of win without appearing to do so.
Like a deck of cards where every suit has an ace, it’s reasonable to assume each ‘reel’ has the same number of high-value symbols. However, some reels are ‘starved’ of winning symbols, markedly reducing the chances of a win compared to a machine where each reel has the same number of winning symbols.
"Return to player"
The poker machine industry often talks about a ‘return to player’ of, for example, 87% or 90%. This gives the impression that if you put $100 in a machine, on average, you’ll get 87 or 90 back. It’s alleged that the ‘return to player’ information is misleading or deceptive because real-life gamblers are most likely to lose a lot more over any realistic time-frame in which they gamble on the machine.
Losses appear as wins
On modern poker machines, users can bet on multiple lines at once. For example, a user might bet 50 cents on 20 lines, so that each button push is a $10 bet. If the spin creates a win on one of the 20 lines, the user might get $2 back but has still lost $8. The machine is programmed to celebrate these losses as wins with sounds and graphic designs. Confused? That’s exactly the point.
Full details of the case
For the full details of the case, you can download the Originating Application and the Statement of Claim. These are the actual documents submitted to the Federal court by Maurice Blackburn on behalf of Shonica Guy.
What happens if the case had won?
Shonica is seeking change, not compensation. She took the case to get;
- declarations that both the Dolphin Treasure poker machine itself, and the way in which it is made available for play at Crown, breach ACL, and
- injunctions to prevent Aristocrat or Crown:
- using any deceptive design features in Dolphin Treasure or similar machines in the future
- participating in unconscionable conduct in relation to Dolphin Treasure or similar machines in the future.
The bottom line here is that if Shonica had won, the misleading and deceptive design of poker machines had to stop. Because so many poker machines in so many venues in Australia and around the world are designed like ‘Dolphin Treasure’, this could have had very far-reaching impacts on the industry.
Shonica Guy took on Crown Casino and Aristocrat as the applicant in the case. She wouldn't have received a cent in compensation from this case even if she had won - she did it to stop the deception of Australians in pubs and clubs everywhere.
"I just want people to know that they are being conned." - Shonica Guy
From 17, Shonica gambled for 14 years on poker machines, most of them designed and manufactured by Aristocrat poker machines. After doing her own research on poker machines she was shocked by the many ways they are designed to addict and got off the machines. She's proud to have been off them for the last seven years.
Shonica volunteers to co-ordinate Pokies Anonymous, a peer-to-peer support group for recovering poker machine users. She also co-ordinates a theatre group that has produced a play and a short film about the impacts of poker machines.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers represented Shonica in the case, and have worked for over 12 months to prepare the best possible case. Jacob Varghese is CEO of Maurice Blackburn.
"We want the machines to be fair; what you see should be what you get, but that is not the case." Jacob Varghese
He and his team bring years of experience fighting for social justice. Without their no-fee work on preparing the case, this action would not be possible.
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We want the plaintiff in this case, Shonica to know she has the community's support behind her no matter what the court decides!
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Shonica showed extraordinary bravery and leadership to ensure Crown & Aristocrat had their day in court.