HOW THE POKIES TOOK MY NAN FOR $200K
Is Prime Minister Julia Gillard backing away from pokie reform?
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald she’s reneging on her promise to introduce a pre-commitment scheme for poker machines.
As the wrangle continues, it’s worth remembering what’s at stake. Read this shocking story…
We have a running joke in our family that Nanna’s gambling paid for the renovations at our local leagues club. Unfortunately it’s one of those “jokes” that isn’t really funny at all, because it is just that bit too close to the bone.
After my grandfather died, my Nan was overcome with grief and overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life. She had never paid a bill, written a cheque or balanced a budget. She sold her unit and came to live with us, putting aside 10 per cent of her money to build a small granny flat so that she could still be independent.
She had plenty of money left to see her through her days in comfort. She had enough to spend on holidays and special treats for herself.
Unfortunately it soon became obvious that her “treats” were trips to the leagues club to play the pokies.
She loved the club. Everyone was so welcoming. They knew her name at the door, they brought her free coffee in the morning and glasses of wine in the afternoon. Within a few months she was going every day, even when she told us she was off to the shops or the movies. I dropped her off there a few times and witnessed how well she was treated – everyone welcomed her by name and told her how wonderful she looked, how nice her clothes were, how young she looked for her age.
Within 18 months all of her money was gone – in excess of $200,000.
She now relies on the pension and is fortunate she doesn’t have to pay rent or bills as she could not afford them.
Those “lovely people” who worked in the club must have known how much money she was putting through those machines.
Poker machines are insidious; they are designed to stimulate the same places in the brain that cause addiction, sending a rush of dopamine to the brain’s receptors and making the player feel compelled to push the button again and again. I’ve seen it in action; I have seen the combination of their trance-like qualities and the seduction of the club atmosphere suck the will power out of a person and their life savings at the same time.
We have seen how legislation has reduced the number of people addicted to cigarettes; I would like to see changes to protect people from the addictions of poker machines. I know many would say that I am a lefty do-gooder, that people like me would have us living in a “Nanny State”, but heck, sometimes the community has to step up and make a stand.
It’s no longer OK for club management to turn a blind eye while vulnerable, addicted people are being bled dry.
Yes, they put back into the community – a cheque here and there for the local hospital, cheap meals at the bistro, supporting junior sports. Take a look at their annual reports however and you will see that most of this is tokenistic. Clubs in WA manage to support their communities without poker machines, it’s time we learned how it is done.
*”Anonymous” is a Hoopla reader who has written a personal and sensitive account which may have family repercussions if her identity is revealed.
Her latest email adds PS: “These days she (Nan) still spends a big chunk of her pension on the pokies but before hand, she pays money to mum as savings for her funeral and puts money aside for Christmas etc. This was her idea, she said she learned the hard way how to manage her money.”
So, the Hoopla wants to know: What’s your position on the proposed poker machine reforms? Do you have a similar story to “anonymous”? Do you think the planned legislation will help, hinder or be of no consequence to our society?
The substance of the Gillard government poker machine reforms:
- The legislation would introduce a “pre-commitment” system. People who want to play the pokies will have to set their limits before they start.(As we know, our limits are different when we’re sober and not caught up in the thrill of the game.)
- Poker machines will then flash messages about the risk of gambling and tell players how much they’re spending on average each hour. ATMs in pubs and clubs will have a maximum daily withdrawal limit of $250.
- The pre-commitment system will apply for high-intensity machines – ones which allow players to lose upwards of $1200 an hour, not for lower-intensity machines.
- The government says the pre-commitment will apply to high-intensity users and that it will not collect personal, private data.
- The new technology would be introduced by 2014. Small clubs with less than 15 machines would be exempt until 2018.