Whether it’s the man or the machine, no one’s winning 56



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A landmark legal case has been launched this week that argues pokie machines are misleading, therefore illegal. It comes off the back of a Australian research showing that the gambling machines are designed to trigger pleasurable brain responses – whether we win or lose.

Having watched from the sidelines as slot machine addiction destroyed my friends’ marriage, I am curious to see how this legal challenge will play out.

Social justice firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers will set out to prove that the operators of pokie machines deceive their customers and are neglecting their duty of care by providing the machines, knowing that they trigger addictive behaviour, reports The New Daily.

Jacob Varghese from Maurice Blackburn says, “The truth is when you press that button it is pre-determined whether you have won or lost. There is no such thing as a near miss, like there is no such thing as being half pregnant. The machines are designed to create the illusion that you might have won.”

Reverend Tim Costello, chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce’s, said people “who get addicted are doing exactly what the machine is designed to do – to addict them.”

He told The New Daily, “No state government licenses or sponsors ice, cocaine or heroin because we know it is addictive.”

Charles Livingstone form the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, says “The basic characteristics of poker machines, combined with constantly refined game features, stimulate the brain in a way that, in many cases, leads to addiction with symptoms similar to those associated with cocaine use.

“Poker machines cultivate addiction by teaching the brain to associate the sounds and flashing lights that are displayed when a punter ‘wins’ with pleasure. And since the pattern of wins, or rewards, is random, the “reinforcement” of the link between the stimuli and pleasure is much stronger than if it could be predicted.”

In his research, he explains that modern-day pokie machines include so many more variables that the chances of winning are “often one in ten million, or more”. Yet we continue to spend $11 billion on pokies nationwide.

Part of the reason, his research argues is that the machines are designed to reinforce our brains that playing pokies makes us feel good, doing this with a strategy of “near misses” on multi-line bets.

“These occur when winning symbols appear on some lines, but not all. Experimental work has revealed that the brain stimulus produced by such “near misses” can be almost as significant as those produced by a win. The level of reinforcement is thus dramatically increased, without any need for the machine’s operator to actually pay out.”

So it seems there is an argument that pokie machines are partly to blame for Australia’s alarming gambling rate of addiction to gambling.

But when I think about the case of my friends who lost $200,000 and their marriage, I can’t help think that it wasn’t a pokie machine that made him walk into that Leagues club. It wasn’t the machine that machine that made him wake up and decide to spend his family’s money on the pokies that day.

Or was it?

Have you experienced the devastating effects of gambling addiction? Do you think the operators are to blame or the gamblers?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. State Governments jumped at the chance to allow poker machines , they are a big revenue raiser for the States, they have known for years that people will become addicted. But while it is legal to play them , I don’t think people are going to stop. I am not a poker machine player but I do think it should be up to individuals to decide if they want to play them or not. We all can say NO and walk away if we want to

    5 REPLY
    • Don’t think everyone can say no and walk away Libbi, once the addiction gets some people they cannot stop until there is nothing else to lose.

    • You are probably right there Wendy but I can’t see a solution , other than banning them, it would not bother me one bit but some people just uses them for entertainment once a month or a week, or what ever they do 🙂

    • Wendy I have to tell you this 🙂 my spare money went on buying a skirt and a pair of pants at the Katies online sale this week, I would prefer to buy something with my money, I got a lovely skirt and a pair of pants for $10 each

    • I don’t gamble either Libbi, not even on the Melbourne cup. My father was a gambler even though we had very little, he was always chasing his fortune on race horses and down in the dumps when he lost. The solution of banning it will never happen unfortunately.

    • You just stated they are an addiction which means they can’t just walk away. Damaging families all across Australia.

  2. Poker machines are a cancer on society. The money made by those machines is money taken out of our economy , money that could have been spent in local shops, creating jobs…the only real winners are the owners of those machines… Woolies own most of them apparently…

    3 REPLY
    • Actually, putting money in the pokies is maintaining the circular flow of cash in the economy and helps maintain the growth the government is always carrying on about. 😉

    • Crap Bruce Mahony does far more damage to society than good if any. I’m from South Australia we got pokies later than the Eastern states and you could so easily see the damage slowly start going from a trickle to a torrent. Immoral.

  3. I listened to a documentary the other day about this and we have the largest amount of poker machines of any country apart from the USA. The States are making a lot of money out of machines ,they are one of the biggest revenue raisers in Australia.. They used to be only in clubs but now even pubs have them. All trails for the existence of these machines lead back to Governments

  4. Of course they are to blame, it’s criminal what’s been done to make them more and more attractive and addictive.
    It destroys families and life’s. One word, EVIL!!!!!!

  5. I was disgusted to see pokies on the “Spirit of Tasmania”, why on earth would they need them for crossing the Bass Strait….greed!

  6. Why blame pokies? Man has gambled long before pokies. Crikey horses cards roulette two up. Australians will bet on anything. It’s the same as drugs. Some are strong and walk away. Others are weak and get caught. Gambling causes finance problems for families. So do credit cards.

  7. It’s a matter of choice, we wouldn’t have the clubs we have today without them, yes, I do play them occasionally but know my limits, it’s $20 in my top pocket and when that’s gone i’m gone.

  8. This issue has a similar tone to smoking, they make these things legal then complain when people excersize their rights to use legal products. There is no forward thinking from the Government. While the Government is making money from this, it will take an army of bulldozers to get them to stop !!!

  9. Gambling has been in since the beginning of time… almost… The sickness gets you, but don’t blame it on that too… If you use restraint you can gamble or dabble as my dad used to call it, without losing your home, your family all your money, etc… Credit cards are a type of gambling too., horses, cards, all of those things… as Delmae says. I can remember growing up with a friends whose father gambled on the horses and was truly addicted and they had nothing in the house much and were always going without food, etc… My mum always helped them out there… so its not new… just probably more of it I guess.

    1 REPLY
  10. All pokies belong in the casino bring back live enertainment in the pubs give back jobs!!!!!

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