Tue, Sep 19, 4:22pm by Staff Writer
Just over one year ago, Adelaide native Shonica Guy made headlines worldwide, as the former gambling addict filed suit against Crown Resorts and Aristocrat Leisure alleging that pokie machines were designed to deceive players.
Last week, Guy’s case against the corporate casino titan and leading pokie manufacturer finally reached Federal Court.
In a trial expected to last three weeks, Crown and Aristocrat will send their respective legal teams against former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel QC, who will represent Guy in a pro bono capacity on behalf of the Maurice Blackburn firm.
Federal Court Justice Debbie Mortimer will supervise the proceedings.
Guy claims that Aristocrat designed its Dolphin Treasure model of pokie machines to mislead deceive players, which would put the company in violation of longstanding consumer law.
According to Guy’s suit, Aristocrat designed Dolphin Treasure to spin five reels before arriving upon a result. But unbeknownst to players like herself, the first four reels hold 30 symbols apiece, while the fifth reel holds 44 symbols.
As the last symbol to land and lock in place, the fifth reel is viewed as the deciding factor in a Dolphin Treasure spin, and Guy claims Aristocrat made it more difficult to win with as a way of encouraging players to falsely believe in “near misses” during a loss.
Her lawsuit also involves Crown Casino in Melbourne, as Guy claims to have spent 14 years gambling compulsively on a daily basis at the venue – which operates 38 of Aristocrat’s Dolphin Treasure pokies on site.
In a press conference held on September 12, Guy told assembled members of the media that her motivations were not financial in nature:
“For too long now, we have been told we are the only ones to blame for pokies addiction. I started playing the pokies when I was 17. Poker machines took over my life for the next 14 years.
This case is not about seeking compensation for what I lost — I just want to make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else.
What I want this case to show is that the industry knows their machines are addictive, and designs these machines to get us hooked. I’m looking forward to having my day in court to fight for honesty and fairness in the pokies industry.
I want this case to show the machines are misleading … and designed to get us hooked.”
The Maurice Blackburn firm confirmed that Guy was not seeking damages in the suit, only reforms to make pokie machines “fairer.”
Speaking alongside Guy, anti-gambling activist Tim Costello accused Aristocrat of siphoning billions away from ordinary Australian through allegedly addictive pokie designs:
“Aristocrat Leisure built its first poker machine in Sydney in 1953 … founder Len Ainsworth and his family are worth about $3 billion. This is wealth taken from ordinary Australians, many of whom, like Shonica Guy, couldn’t afford to lose this money.
The machines have become more and more sophisticated and losses have now soared to about $12 billion a year.
Millions of dollars in political donations have been made, the gambling industry has hired dozens of former politicians, state budgets have pocketed more than $30 billion over the past 25 years, but this has been dirty money, a form of state-sponsored abuse of the citizenry.”
Ross Ferrar of the The Gaming Technologies Association – a lobby group representing Aristocrat and other poker machine makers – denied claims that games like Dolphin Treasure are deceptive:
“(Pokies) are heavily regulated and comply with strict standards.
Those national standards include consumer protection measures, such as no false information, no misleading information, adequate information for players to make informed decisions.
Those go above and beyond consumer protection legislation.”
The trial is scheduled to conclude during the first week of October.
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