Pokies are hugely popular in Australia, and in New Zealand to a lesser extent. These are a great way to while away a few minutes or hours, with the added incentive of being able to win a huge jackpot with just a few cents, but whilst this is a popular pastime for many, it has become a big problem for some. Gambling addiction is on the increase in society, mainly due to the prevalence of online gambling and the fact that anyone anywhere can gamble in an instant, whether through their PC, laptop, tablet or phone. No other country gambles more than Australia, and the vast majority of that gambling is in the form of pokies, with each Aussie losing over $1000 on these machines annually.
Gambling addiction is defined as “excessive” and/or “impulsive” betting that causes a great deal of stress to the individual and/or their family and friends. This was not always considered to be a real addiction, and in previous years it has been passed off as the act of a down-and-out, or even of an alcoholic, as one can often precipitate the other, but in recent years it has been taken very seriously. In Australia, a 2010 study conducted by the Productivity Commission, a government organization, discovered that between 80.000 and 160.000 people in the country suffer from serious gambling addiction, with many more suffering from light to moderate issues as a result of their gambling.
There are gambling support blogs, created by those who are fighting through this issue, and there are also government organizations set up to assist those who think their pokie gambling has gone too far. These machines can cost as little as a few cents to play, but the upper limits are much greater and there are those who have lost significant amounts. Former professional rugby league player, Nathan Hindmarsh, revealed in his autobiography that he lost over $200,000 playing pokies, a habit that started when he was still a teenager. It’s not just reserved for those with money either, as some stories reveal equally large losses for those who didn’t really have that sort of money to lose in the first place.
It’s fair to say that pokie addiction is prevalent and is clearly an issue. It’s also not hard to see how it became such a problem. Pokies are very popular, and by their nature they seduce the player and pay-out very little, creating temptation and a great deal of frustration, which can, and often does, lead to great losses. The issue is not whether such a problem exists, but whether anyone is willing to do anything about it. There is also the question of whether pokie addiction is the fault of the addict, as opposed to the people who make or lease the machines. And if it was made illegal, what about all of those pokie players that play within their means, should they suffer because of the few that take things too far?
According to one poll, run by debate.org and voted on by Aussie gamblers and pokie players, the answer is a resounding “yes”. The “no” camp are resolute, as they always are, in affirming that a bit of willpower is all that these players need, and that the majority should not be punished for the mistakes of the minority, but it seems that more people disagree with them than agree.
Right now pokies are very much legal in Australia and New Zealand. They can be placed in casinos and in licensed premises, and there are thousands of these in the country. Whether the laws will change or not is anyone’s guess.
For those that want pokies to be banned the issue is with the government, because the simple fact is that pokies make those at the top an astounding $3 billion+ a year. They are not concerned with how many people are losing money, nor do they really care about either of the arguments being raised, what they do care about is whether the cost to treat someone with gambling addiction outweighs the money they receive through that gambling. Right now, it looks like the income far outweighs the expenditure in that department, which means that pokies will probably be here for many years to come. Some might say that is a cynical way of seeing things, some might even speculate that the government refuse to ban pokies because they themselves enjoy the occasional game, and with a population so hooked on these machines, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they did.