Pokies Reform

Pokies Reform

The rich get richer

The poor get the picture

(Midnight Oil)

About 12 billion dollars is lost on poker machines (pokies, slot machines) each year in Australia.

Can you believe that figure!

Problem gamblers can lose more than $1,000 an hour on the pokies.

An old friend (now ex-friend) of our family lost nearly $200,000 on the pokies and almost ended up in jail from fraudulent activities.

Many Australians will have similar stories to tell. It’s not pretty.

The Government is planning to introduce a system of mandatory pre-commitment to help problem gamblers.

‘Mandatory pre-commitment simply means that pokie players, before they start gambling, must set their own daily limit: a maximum amount they are prepared to lose for the day.

The Productivity Commission has recommended mandatory pre-commitment as the way to help problem gamblers, calling it a ‘strong, practicable and ultimately cost-effective option for harm minimisation’. It doesn’t mean finger-printing or excessive ID requirements – it requires about the same ID as it takes to enter a club, and gives Australians a choice about how much to gamble.’ (source: Getup)

This initiative will help gamblers. The people making big bikkies from the gambling industry know this, and are furious. They are crying poor and making all sorts of unsubstantiated claims about how it is going to be the end of life as we know it in Australia.

When one of Australia’s richest men (part of the 1 % we have all been talking about) James Packer, starts whinging about the impact of this initiative on the clubs, you entitled to be a little dubious (also entitled to gafaw loudly into your wheatbix).

Think about this. If you own a club or a pub that makes a mint from the money spewing into poker machines, than you are making that money primarily from the pockets of problem gamblers, who spend hours on these machines. Your average Joe, without a problem in the gambling arena, is not going to put too much cash down the pokies.

If that is a good thing, then I will eat my hat.

If you are happy with that situation, than it seems that you are happy to turn a blind eye to the harm that is caused to the problem gambler. Maybe you couldn’t give a toss about the problem gambler (they did bring it on themselves some would say), but even so, what about the families (the children, the wives, the husbands) and the friends of the gambler.

The impacts of gambling can be felt throughout all communites in this country.

It wasn’t that long ago that Queensland had NO poker machines – and guess what, the world didn’t come to an end; the clubs and pubs survived (and actually entertained their customers in a number of creative ways without the need for the ‘odious and soul destroying’* poker machine). I remember going to my local soccer club as a kid and watching family movies, playing games, eating and drinking – a good time was had by all, the club made money, and no-one was losing $3,000 during the evening on poker machines.

If the only way clubs and pubs can make money is via problem gamblers losing big on poker machines, then they need to look carefully at their business model and their conscience.

It is time for pokies reform.

______________________
* quote from Selma Sargent on twitter

Note: you can pop over to Brad’s place for another persuasive text on the issue 😉

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

23 thoughts on “Pokies Reform

  1. The big problem in the US is scratch or lottery tickets, purchased any time at any corner store, but especially on the way home with paychecks at the end of the week so there is nothing left for the family. They are sponsored by the government to “raise money for education” and the like, essentially imposing yet another tax on the poor, since those with the lowest per capita income spend the most on the tickets. The US is not only enabling the destroying of families, but encouraging what is every much an addictive disease as cigarettes — oh, right, they’re legal — and alcohol — oh right, that’s legal, while pursuing its eternal, violent, ineffective, idiotic War on (Illegal) Drugs.

    • Yup, it’s all a bit hypocritical, to say the least. The War on Drugs is full of inconsistencies and contradictions and ineffectual strategies (a bit like the wars on countries around the world). We have scratchies as well, but I don’t think they are sponsored by the Government – they are not such a big problem here (I’d have to look into it and check). Thanks squirrel.

  2. I’m glad to be quoted on pokie reform because I am a strong advocate for it. I used to work in a tough inner city school where a lot of the parents of my students had various addictions but one of the worst was an addiction to the pokies. A lot of them were on the pension and they’d blow the lot in one day pulling that arm on the machine up and down. The kids would come to school with no breakfast, dirty uniforms, no pens or pencils, sometimes no shoes. I didn’t understand the addiction at first and then a friend of my Mum’s was hospitalised after a suicide attempt due to losing over a hundred grand on the pokies. She was terribly addicted and full of despair. Her case made me appreciate first-hand how soul-destroying poker machine addiction is.

    I applaud the government for trying to do something about it and shame on those people like James Packer who have enough money to clear the debt of several Third World countries and just want more. I think that the pubs and clubs housing the machines must be held accountable. I’m tired of these uber wealthy moguls trying to keep the disenfranchised in their place. Let’s keep the plebs poor and miserable and riddled with vitamin deficiencies because all they can afford to eat and drink are frozen chicken nuggets and generic brand cola so they don’t have the energy to notice how much we are feathering our own nests – I think that’s what people like James Packer think.

    Thanks for writing about this, Gabe. It is a very important issue.

    • It is so depressing isn’t it Selma (I hate when they leave their kids in the car or unsupervised in shopping centres while they gamble – ‘I’ll only be a few minutes’ and then they take hours because it is like being hypnotised and they forget the time.). I hate it when they try to borrow money off you and get shitty when you have the nerve to say no – haha. I hate that they think they are pretty cool sitting at the dumbass machines (think they are in a flash casino like James Bond) but they just look pathetic. I hate that Tony Abbott wants to repeal the legislation … Gees I am in a ranty mood this week.

  3. I am against all these temptations for the poor to throw away their money (they seem to be more easily addicted (?) or definitely more attracted) because of their circumstances. Good for you Gabe and also Selma.

    Btw Gabrielle this guy popped up on my blog a couple of days ago. Perhaps you would be interested in helping a fellow Aussie. I think he is very talented but needs guidance… Thanks. http://flyingfryingdieing.wordpress.com

    • Anyone can get addicted but the poor are especially vulnerable if they perceive their life as tedious, unfulfulling, and no way out – the pokies is the light at the end of the tunnel (but not really of course) – but it is a trap because if they do win a large sum of money they often continue gambling because it was such a massive reinforcement for them (such a thrill being the big winner) – our friend won about $5,000 in the initial stages of her gambling and that was the big hook that hooked her. I’ll check out your friend adeeyoyo 🙂

  4. There is an Native American Casino/Resort just outside of the city that I live in..I have been amazed by the amount of money that has been made since it opened…but more amazed by the motor homes (provided free parking and hookups) for elderly people and others who stay there just to gamble….they only ones getting rich are the tribe members…gambling is a real addiction that governments need to address…rather than see as an income source.;-(

    • Thanks slpmartin – there is such a conflict of interest when Governments are making big dollars from addiction (tobacco, gambling etc.,) because they become addicted to the revenue from the addictions – one big addictive cycle that will never end. That is one reason I like the mandatory precommitment because it puts some power back with the user.

  5. Hear, hear, Gabe! I think that mandatory pre-commitment is a very good start to tackling this scourge and the Government cannot be accused of nanny-state tactics on this one because the problem gambler still has some autonomy over their gambling activities. As you say, regardless of what you think of the addicts themselves, the families are the ones that suffer. Diddums to James Packer

    • Thanks bluebee 🙂 James Packer has some nerve – today he was saying that the people complaining about the pokies are the Cafe Latte set – haha – what is he if not the champagne sucking, cigar chomping 1 percent – arghh! With precommitment people can still set a any limit (it is their choice – so you’re right about the no nanny state) and that is what is needed because left to their own devices and the hypnotism of the machines, they get carried away with the moment and always do what they were not intending on doing (like the ex-smoker who starts smoking at a party when over excited 😉 ).

  6. I don’t even know where to begin, I am flabbergasted that anyone could argue against the reforms; it’s not banning the machines, it’s merely asking someone, while in a ‘sober’ state, how much they are prepared to lose. The clubs manipulate the dollar chasers, the gamblers who figure another $50 will win them back the hundreds they’ve already lost. One article I read, I think it might have been on Geoff Lemon’s site, had the clubs screaming that communities would be destroyed with these reforms because of all the money clubs pump into the community??? I figure a stable family, food on the table, basic necessities of life, are more important to communities.

    As I said, I don’t know where to begin, and if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop!

    • That’s right Mark. Gamblers often continue their run (up or down) because of the adrenaline pumping through their veins (a true escape outlet for many people) and can’t make a rational decision once they have started – making the decision before they start makes perfect sense, as they can think more clearly – and it is still their decision, so the control is put back on them. I read somewhere that the pubs and clubs only put 3% back into community projects (and even so, the ends shouldn’t justify the means – here take this money, never mind the blood stains on the notes 😉 )

  7. I don’t partake myself but know of lots of people that love to go to the casinos here in the US and here in, especially in Washington State, the Native Americans have lots of them. I didn’t know this about Australia, though, so lots of insiteful information.

  8. Gambling is a bad deal. Sadly, people find ways to gamble whether it’s official gambling or not (though I’d still like to see the end of official gambling sites in the US — especially those state lotteries that Squirrel mentions).

    There were some teenaged boys gambling on the stoop of an apartment I rented several years ago. Looked out the window and there they were (right in my face, as it were). And it was so weird — the first thing that popped into my mind was 17th century genre paintings of gambling. Thinking about that, I looked at these boys, and young as they were, they looked like they were 300 years old…

    • It is true Aletha that people will gamble regardless of restrictions on one form, however there is research that shows that slot machine gambling (the pokies) is more addictive than for example horse racing (which at least is based on the form of the horses and is not purely chance) and it is true that people may gamble on the internet if they can’t easily access the pokies in clubs – but there is something particularly potent about pokies in the pub/club environment which exacerbates the degree of gambling (the hypnotic atmosphere for one which is harder to create online).

  9. Pingback: Blow up the Pokies | Gabrielle Bryden's Blog

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