Saturday, 29 October 2011

Anyone who knows anything

about psychology will know that "poker machines" are designed to be addictive. You apparently put money in. You push a button (or pull a lever?) and you are "rewarded" with flashing lights and rows of bananas and some sort of sound. I am not sure exactly how it works as I have never come close enough to a poker machine to lose money in one and I never intend to but it is a sad reality that some people do. I also know that "rewarding" the individual reinforces the behaviour. Is it any wonder some people get addicted.
The Federal Government is now playing with the idea of "mandatory pre-commitment" to try and stem the problem some people have with spending excessive amounts of money at these machines. The government did not set out on this path by choice. Left to their own devices they probably would not have done anything. One of the "independent" MPs they depend on to remain in government is demanding that something be done. It was his bargaining chip when the government was looking for support.
While I am concerned for people who may lose their employment if the revenue at hotels and clubs drops I am also concerned for the families of those who are so badly addicted that they lose everything. It really is distressing that some people see poker machines as their best friends, that they have so little else in their lives that a machine takes over and they give everything to it. Whether mandatory commitment will help people in these circumstances I do not know. It may be worth a try - but there needs to be other support given as well.
However I also think that there are other things the government could and should do if they are serious about the problem. One of the Senators for the state I live in has tried, not very successfully, to get the number of poker machines reduced. That seems like a good start to me. If there are less machines then less money can be lost.
The fact that the Senator has not been very successful however tells me that the government and hotels and clubs industry is not very serious about the problem. There were all sorts of arguments about investments and employment - and threats about what could happen at election time.
The government could also legislate to cut back on the number of hours during which people could play. The argument used against this one is that shift workers also have a right to play poker machines and that older people have the right to play during the day so poker machines should be available virtually around the clock. I disagree. Does anyone need to play at seven in the morning? I think not.
The government could also legislate to restrict the amount of time any one person can spend on any one machine. There are addicts who will only play one machine, their "lucky" machine. Restricting play to a short period of time would also limit losses - and revenue.
Yes, it is all about revenue. The government gets money from gambling. It gets it in all sorts of ways. Millions of dollars a year in govenment revenue is at risk from too much reform.
I suspect the simple fact is that the government is also addicted to gambling.

1 comment:

widdershins said...

Nope! The guv'mint can't cut back on the revenoo from the pokies. It goes to all those charities, and homeless kids and programs for gambling addicts.