We don’t gamble in anticipation of losing, but any responsible punter knows the risk of loss is real, and that the odds of winning are always against us. We play for fun, for entertainment, and for the chance of coming away a big winner. One player of the Queensland pokies at Royal Hotel in Beenleigh was lost to that concept when he set fire to 40 poker machines earlier this month.
A young man, in his early twenties, has been accused of arson and endangerment with intent to destroy property after being arrested at the Queensland pokies pub on George Street on the evening of Wednesday, January 4. He currently remains behind bars after a judge refused the man bail, believing he may be a danger to himself.
According to reports, authorities believe the young man had visited the hotel earlier that day, where he had played the poker machines. It’s safe to assume that he lost money on the pokies, as he returned to the establishment around 8:40pm that night with malicious intent.
Police say the man was carrying a container of petrol with him, which he used to douse the hotel’s gambling machines just before setting them on fire. Initial reports indicate that 40 of the machines were devastated by the blaze, completely destroying 3 and damaging another 37 beyond repair.
When 9News arrived on the scene, a local patron, Matt Downes, described his eye-witness account of the impassioned crime. “It just took off, it was pretty quick, everyone knows what happens when you throw unleaded on a fire,” he said. “It went up, it was full on!”
A fellow player of Queensland pokies, Downes understands the disappointment of a bad run as much as any other punter. But he questioned the gambler’s berserk reaction. “You have a few bad days on the punt, but is it worth throwing petrol on it?”
Workers of the hotel said the incident occurred just after dinner was served, and that the flames sent patrons and staff scrambling to safety. The moment the blaze caught, the culprit, apparently satisfied with his efforts, made a break for the exit, but was halted and detained by security until local police arrived.
Aside from the poker machines themselves, none were injured in the fire. All damaged pokies were removed, and the remaining devices were back up and running by noon the following day. The hotel has not disclosed the value of property damage incurred.
No Bail for Queensland Pokies Arsonist
The young man appeared in Southport Magistrates Court the following morning, donning a white hospital gown as he plead for for bail. The judge, however, chose to deny him bail on account that he may be a danger to himself, and possibly others.
“He should be in custody for his own protection,” said Magistrate Gary Fingers.
Are Poker Machines At Fault?
Dr. Charles Livingstone, a gambling researcher with Monash University and long-time anti-pokies campaigner, called this “the most extreme example” he’s seen of a problem gambler retaliating against poker machines. However, he said it’s not uncommon for problem gamblers to take their rage out on the machines.
He believes that punters can fall into what’s known as “the zone”. During this time, “they get sucked into using the machines repeatedly”, and can become “very enraged” once they realise all their money is gone. He says the industry is at fault, and that changes should be made to reduce the machines’ harm and addictive nature.