Pokies company and Crown face legal battle over ‘deceptive’ slots

Aristocrat faces legal actionA gambling addict who says pokies “took over her life” is launching legal action against two casino giants in what anti-gambling activists call a “David vs Goliath” battle.

Shonica Guy is taking it up to Crown Casino and pokies maker Aristocrat, demanding accountability for what she claims is a con.

“The machines are actually designed to take your money; as soon as I touched the machine I was hooked. There is a fine line between gambling and entertainment” she told Fairfax Media.

Ms Guy isn’t seeking compensation, and is instead hoping to educate people by forcing two of the industry’s biggest players to reveal how pokie machines disguise losses as wins.

“I just want people to know that they are being conned,” she said.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn is acting pro bono for Ms Guy, and will formally write to both Crown and Aristocrat on Monday about the Dolphin Treasure pokies game.

The game has been analysed by Monash University researchers, and Ms Guy’s legal battle hones in on the apparent uneven spread of symbols across the game’s five reels that determine a win.

Ms Guy has been playing pokies for 14 years, since she was 17 years old.

She says the games are designed to trick players into thinking that they’re winning when they’re not.

“It took over my life; half my life was wasted. I was hypnotised for a decade, I didn’t know I was hooked, then someone said, ‘I think you are hooked’,” Ms Guy said.

“I thought I had a fair chance of winning, but I found out that they are rigged. They trick with design features.”

The Alliance For Gambling Reform is supporting the legal battle, with spokesperson and anti-pokies campaigner Tim Costello telling Fairfax it would be a tough but necessary fight against two giants.

“This is the people versus Packer,” Mr Costello said. “And it’s about time the people had a real win.

“Adding Aristocrat to the case means it’s now become David vs Goliaths. There are effectively two Goliaths. We can’t let pokies money win the day this time.”

Head of social justice practice at Maurice Blackburn, Jacob Varghese, says it’s reasonable to assume people don’t realise they’re being tricked by pokies machines.

“We think it is reasonable for a player to assume that each reel has an even distribution of symbols. We want the machines to be fair; what you see should be what you get, but that is not the case,” he said.

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