Pokies: 'addictive like cocaine'

Lawyers are preparing legal action against casinos and poker machine designers, saying that pokies are designed to be addictive and may be illegal.

According to lawyers from the Maurice Blackburn firm, poker machines are designed to be as ‘addictive as cocaine’, and machines that disguise wins as losses or ‘near misses’ engage in deceptive behaviour that could be in breach of the law.

“There’s no accident that people are getting addicted to machines, they’re designed to make people addicted,” said lawyer Jacob Varghese, speaking at the launch of the National Gambling Action Alliance. “To the extent that it’s misleading and deceptive, it’s against the law.”

Mr Varghese informed reporters yesterday that lawyers will be preparing legal action over the next couple of months, with the focus on possible breaches of common law, Australian Consumer Law, and other infringements.

“I think the entire industry is involved in an elaborate confidence trick and we’re determined to prove that it’s not lawful,” he said.

But Gaming Technologies Australia chief executive Ross Ferrar hit back at the allegations, saying that the idea of machines being designed to be addictive is “nonsense”.

“That’s like saying that a car is designed to run out of petrol, or a car is designed to exceed the speed limit – it’s just not true,” said Mr Ferrar.

Mr Ferrar also claims that Australia has the slowest poker machines in the world and allow for some of the world’s lowest maximum bets.

Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello had some harsh words to say about pokies, comparing them to crystal meth in the effect that they have on the community.

Monash University researcher Charles Livingstone said there’s research that shows that poker machines are designed to stimulate the release of dopamine – the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemical.

“Which is exactly the same mechanism used in something like cocaine addiction,” said Mr Livingstone.

Senator Nick Xenophon, himself a staunch anti-poker machine campaigner, welcomes the planned court action, saying it is “terrific news”, but fully expects the poker machine industry to dig in and battle against it.

According to statistics from the Gaming Technologies Association Australia and Nick Xenophon, there are 7.6 million poker machines worldwide, and around 200,000 of those in Australia. That’s 2.5 per cent of the world total. Australians lose around $19 billion a year on pokies, with $4 billion of that total going into State Government coffers. It is estimated that one in six people who regularly play pokies are addicted.

Read more at www.sbs.com.au

Read more at www.nickxenophon.com.au

Or watch the ABC’s documentary Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation

Do you think pokies are addictive? Do you welcome these proceedings? What suggestions would you have for gambling addicts? Do you think the Government will back the actions of the National Gambling Action Alliance? Or do you feel that it would rather continue receive the money derived from pokies than address the social cost?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?
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