Whenever the debate on poker machine regulation comes up, I’m reminded of a couple from Brisbane I met on the train. I was doing my usual headphones-in, ignore-everybody routine, but they tapped me on the shoulder and then asked me a few questions about Perth.
We got talking and the guy got to his list of things he didn’t like about Perth. Number one was the lack of ‘clubs’. It took me a moment to figure out what he meant. We don’t really have ‘clubs’ here – I guess the closest you’d find is a pub that does a big, cheapish buffet.
The funny thing was that he argued clubs were a social benefit to pensioners. As he put it, they could go there and get a good feed for $5. I didn’t know this couple and wasn’t worried about offending them, so I said straight out that the pensioners were meant to feed more than the money they’d saved to the pokies. The guy was offended and argued back, his wife agreed with me.
It’s astounding that the poker machine operators – who deprive many people of their income in the most calculated fashion – have manage to convince those very people they are doing them a good turn. It just shows the power of marketing. I can’t imagine being so unethical as to be one of the marketing people who comes up with this stuff, or one of the psychologists that optimises flashing lights, bings and whistles to maximise the rate that money is posted into oblivion.
This isn’t about stopping people having a little bit of fun. This is about stopping the actions of organisations which systematically prey on vulnerable demographics. For a great run down of the numbers and a lot of pretty graphs, go look at ‘Don’t bet on the joys of the pokies‘ over at Grogs Gamut.