The recent ABC documentary Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation uncovered the methods pokie designers use. Alluring graphics, sounds, lights and music are engineered to exploit how the brain works by triggering chemicals (like dopamine) at similar levels to those exhibited in the brains of those with severe drug addiction.
No wonder they have been called the electronic morphine and crack cocaine of gambling.
A gambling disorder is found alongside cocaine and heroin in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.
One only needs to look at the wreckage meted out to families of pokie addicts and the community-at-large to agree that the comparison with hard drugs is not far off the mark. These include broken families, deprived children and, in extreme cases, suicide.
And the community (usually via the government) must pick up the costs of providing for the victims as well as costs due to lost productivity, bankruptcy, fraud and the prosecution and incarceration of offenders.
Studies show that for every person with a gambling problem, another five to 10 people are affected, meaning about 27,000 Tasmanians are bearing the brunt. This number includes an estimated 2000 children.
Pokie harms could be significantly averted with a few simple policy changes.
People have been talking for years about mandatory $1 bet limits and the huge difference they would make for problem gamblers.
New community alliances, national and local, are pushing for these kinds of reforms. Why can’t Tassie lead the way? Of course, there will be the expected opposition, but surely we have a moral obligation to help the most vulnerable.
The experience from Victoria in 2008 can offer us hope. The Victorian government of the day dropped bet limits significantly in a very short period and with minimal contention.
We hope for a brighter future for the many Tasmanians affected by pokie addiction. To read more click here.
The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016.
To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE. Early bird registrations close Friday 8th April so be quick to receive a discounted rate.