Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The current poker machine controversy

Here in the west, as Geoff Gallop has highlighted in WA - the no-pokies state we don't have poker machines in pubs and clubs. Nor do we have their associated problems. Yet our bowling clubs still manage to operate and we still have ANZAC day.

Over at Crikey Ben Eltham has written Transparency please! Why the tax breaks for pokies clubs? where he suggests that the various clubs don't give anywhere near as much back to the community as they claim. Most of the comments are also very instructive.

Edit: 30/9: Jonah Lehrer has written and lectured about how slot machines are addictive.
At this point, our dopamine neurons should just turn themselves off: the slot machine is a waste of mental energy. But this isn't what happens. Instead of getting bored by the haphazard payouts, our dopamine neurons become obsessed. The random rewards of gambling are much more seductive than a more predictable reward cycle. When we pull the lever and win some money, we experience a potent rush of pleasurable dopamine precisely because the reward was so unexpected. The clanging coins and flashing lights are like a surprising squirt of juice. The end result is that we are transfixed by the slot machine, riveted by the fickle nature of its payouts.

"The trick of a one-armed bandit," Montague says, "is that it provides us with the illusion of a pattern. We get enough rewards so that we keep on playing. Our cells think they'll figure out the pattern soon. But of course they won't."

Edit 22/10: Gareth Hutchens in Time to play it straight in licence-to-punt debate writes how clubs are using the word "licence" to frame the debate:

THE clubs are being deliberately misleading when they tell us that a precommitment card for poker machines will be some kind of "licence". It won't be.
Edit 23/10: Dr Charles Livingstone in Why $1 pokies are a good idea thinks that restricting maximum bets on pokies to $1 the way to go:
To Clubs NSW and their supporters, the only option is business as usual. Unfortunately, business as usual means that significant numbers of people will continue to be chewed up and spat out by their system of harm production, which operates on an industrial scale. There is little doubt, however, that the majority of Australians want this situation changed, recognising that having a million or so Australians adversely affected by pokie-derived gambling problems at any one time is not acceptable. Introducing $1 maximum bets and other changes to pokie limits would achieve this, at comparatively low cost to operators and without great disruption to pokie users.
Edit 4/11: Support seems to be growing for a $1 bet limit.
Edit 5/11: Malcolm Farr makes some good points in Pokie palaces are sucking the life out of communities.
Edit 14/11: Charles Livingstone looks at the cost of implementing $1 maximum bets in No pre-commitment to the truth in pro-pokie compaign. Also killing the feature and The key to helping pokie addicts lies in lure of the feature.
Edit 7/12: Senator Richard Di Natale, Green's spokesperson for gambling attempts to rebuff criticism of their policy in $1 bet limits: a seat belt, not a silver bullet.

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