Stand-Up Gamblers

(Photo: Jeff Wilcox)

Anglicare, a Tasmanian welfare agency, has submitted a proposal to the Australian government’s inquiry into problem gambling that would require pokies (the Aussie version of a slot machine) players to stand up while playing.  “We don’t want to punish people, but there are things we can do to assist problem gamblers to get a break in play,” said Chris Jones, the CEO of Anglicare. “If they want a break, they can sit elsewhere, but they don’t need to take a seat in front of a machine.”

Anglicare also suggested “allowing more natural light into poker machine areas and bans on food and drink in all gaming areas.” Freakonomics readers, what do you think?  Will these nudges work?

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

David Youngberg

I reminded of Tyler Cowen's advice to keep meetings short: make everyone stand.

Dr. Thomas H Treutler

Will these nudges work? Depends really on what you want to achieve! A positive side effect could not just be a slight reduction in gambling (assuming this is what they want to achieve), but improvements in the general health of gambler. This way they might spent less money on gambling on a per day basis but gambling halls might rejoice because in the long run gamblers will live longer (improved health) and they can make more money on each gambler.

Well, we will know in 50 years if this really happens! ;-)

Andrew Muchtar

Wow, what a thought..? Standing, sitting or even laying on the floor be's all gamblers' choice while playing the game. Don't you want more gamblers coming in......?


I take it that smoking has already been banned in Australian casinos? In the US, it seems like casinos are the last indoor public spaces where smoking is still allowed.


Yep, smoking was banned in enclosed places around 2006/2007 (depending on state), that included casinos.

I would like to point out that Australia only has a few traditional casinos (13 i think?) the vast majority of poker machines (slots) are in normal every day pubs and clubs.

It's depressing to go to some of these places where the gambling area takes up 2/3 of the place.


Is there a disability act in Australia? Would not providing seating violate this? Would only those that are disabled get seats? How would they verify this?

This seems like a case of ruining the fun for the majority for the protection of the few. Cheap drinks and relaxing is part of the fun.

Steven Gangstead

If you want to ban casinos then ban casinos. It's kind of two faced to allow gambling, but put a bunch of crazy stipulations on it in the name of the gamblers' welfare.


There's no history in the article - but these slot machines - we call them pokies - are almost literally every pub and bar, they are a key component of these premises income - the problem isn't casinos.

I've never seen anything like it anywhere else and it's very difficult to explain without a full-on essay - so I've just found a link on the net, have a read:

Viktor Hauk

My first hunch: there will be a lot of tired and hungry gamblers in Tasmania.

Ian M

Make people stand up while shooting heroin at safe injection sites too. I'm sure that will deter them.


These aren't "nudges". Nudges aren't objectively inconvenient or undesirable.

Governments thinking about this kind of ukase need to chill out. Ban casinos or don't, but leave the stools alone!

Mike Verlezza

Interesting idea. I am fascinated by the different ways governments try to legislate morality. It would be neat to see a casino section off a part of the game floor and dedicate it to standing-only gaming.

The issue I see however, is that people are already getting up periodically to go to the bathroom. Diminishing marginal returns seem to indicate that you might not see the big shift you're hoping for just by making them move around for more reasons. Three times the reasons to move does not necessarily yield three times the movement, especially as people cheat the system and sit, eat, drink and use the WC all in one trip - just to get back to the floor more quickly.

-Mike Verlezza
-Bridgewater State University


I believe that it would work for many people. I base the belief solely on my deciding to forego watching TV, even though I'm TV addicted, when I can't find the remote control. I don't think that it would work, though, for the gambling addicts who, I assume, are the targets of the proposal, because deeply addicted people, in pursuit of their substance or activity of choice, often work very hard under conditions that most people wouldn't tolerate.


Based on the casinos I've been in, particularly in Mississippi and Louisiana, I doubt that many of those people could stand for more than three or four pulls on the one-armed bandit.

Jack Evans

I think that if put in place these regulations would help those with gambling problems by forcing them to get out of the area and clear their head for a while. However, casinos are built to make money, and I don't know about the lobbying power of casinos in Australia, but in the U.S. the casinos would never let those regulations be passed, as they could have a potentially damaging affect on their bottom line.

Eric M. Jones.

The Amazing Johnathan had a gag where a stool would collapse and shove the center post up through the seat. Maybe that would work.

paul o.

Gambling would be reduced without seating. However, addicted gamblers would reduce the amount of time gambling less than normal gamblers. Removing seating would be better at stopping normal gamblers than addicts. Addicts by definition are less affected by deterents to their fix. Think smokers outside in January or junkies using dirty needles.

Caleb b

Agreed with other commenters: it will have no affect on addicts.

How about treadmills in front of each machine. At least then you make people heathier.

Caleb b

Quick gambling addict story. My wife's dad (Pops) used to bet through a bookie. They were friends (as often happens) and was riding with him when the bookie asked if Pops would roll with him on a payment pickup. No sweat, he'd done it before, just stop by some guy's house, pick up the cash, and go.

When they get there, Pops sees this guy is sitting on his front porch, in a neck brace, black eyes, and (no kidding) a leg cast. He handed the bookie the keys to his car and IMMEDIATELY asked, "now can I bet again?"