Addiction to the pokies – who’s to blame?

For years, poker machine addicts have been held accountable for their problem gambling. But new research reveals that it is in fact the machine’s manufacturers who should take responsibility for player addiction to the pokies.

In days gone by, for many families, a lunch at the local club wasn’t complete until the adult diners had lightened their pockets with a flutter on the pokies.

Affectionately known as “one-armed bandits”, the mechanical devices devoured spare change of any size and occasionally rewarded players when a bunch of coins clattered back into the tray.

These days, poker machines are an entirely different beast. And an unsuspecting Australian public is far worse off because of it.

Australia is home to 20% of the world’s poker machines, and the Australian Government estimates that 600,000 people play the pokies every week, with 40% of them addicted.

Whereas the old-style pokies had winning odds of about one in 8000, their modern electronic counterparts often only cough up a major prize once in every 10 million – or more – hits.

The repercussions of problem gambling

Australians lose more money per capita to gambling than any other nationality in the world, says The Economist, with $20 billion dollars going down the gambling gurgler every year. Of that, $11 billion is swallowed up by poker machines.

If losing all of that money isn’t enough of a problem, gamblers and their families lose in many other ways as well: the Australian Gambling Research Centre says that gambling problems affect a gambler’s intimate relationships with partners, children, parents, siblings and grandparents.

Research has also identified an association between problem gambling and the rate of family violence, and has also shown that the children of parents who have a gambling problem are at a much higher risk of becoming problem gamblers themselves.

To top things off, local businesses miss out on much-needed revenue when it is instead being fed to electronic machines in large clubs and gaming venues. Continue reading



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