It’s all well and good to have debated the pre-commitment poker machine legislation back and forth for the last two years, but none of it matters unless gambling venues commit to upholding the responsible conduct of gambling code.

On one occasion, the author found a beer glass filled with a gambler's urine

And clubs aren’t doing that. Or not in my experience anyway.

Drug dealers make money from selling drugs. Prostitutes make their money from sex. For three years I earned a living serving people who destroyed their lives and their families with gambling addictions. The only difference with my trade was, it’s socially acceptable.

The culture of clubs and pubs in Australia is backward and destructive. They are rife with bullying, sexism and cronyism. They are truly unhappy places littered with many unhappy people, staff and gamblers included.

During my time working at clubs I would be rostered to work from Thursday to Sunday religiously. I would see the same people four days in a row, sitting at the same poker machines, these people become part of the furniture.

Take my usual Friday overnighter, starting work at 9:30pm the usual suspects would arrive long before I started and we would be leaving together at 6am when the sun came up. These people were only leaving because the club was closing.

“Is it that time already?” patrons would say to me in disbelief when I would usher them out. It was common to see security guards resort to physical force to remove people from the club at closing time.

In my club, no matter what shift you landed, customer service in gaming was paramount. People playing the poker machines were attended to faster and with greater service than any other person in the club.

On a tray shift I would bring drinks galore, dinner and sometimes dessert to patrons playing the pokies. I would bring entire steak meals, with a side order of salad and chips and mushroom sauce to gamblers. “I asked for Greek salad, not garden salad. Also, I need more ice in this Coke!” they would demand, eyes not moving from the screen.

Would I dare tell them where to stick it? I wouldn’t dream of it. Club management would roast me. You know the saying ‘the customer is always right’? Well, clubs take it to a whole new level as ‘gambling customers are gods’.

This type of service creates an environment where gamblers do not even need to get up out of their seat for anything, except to go to the toilet. And sometimes that doesn’t even happen.

On a few occasions going on a glass run would lead to nasty surprises. Picking up a full bottle of VB, I remember thinking to myself why it was so warm? I instantly realised it was urine.

Sometimes staff aren’t so lucky and find wet seats.

I remember one colleague of mine was doing his first training shift on gaming, attending a maintenance call he started talking to a woman who had lost her entire pension, telling him how poor she was going to be for the rest of the week.

“Maybe you should quit now and go home,” he replied.

People who work in gaming are required by law to obtain a Responsible Conduct of Gambling certificate. One of the requirements of the certificate is being able to recognise problem gambling behaviour and assist where appropriate.

My colleague identified that this woman was a problem gambler, and suggested she stop playing the poker machines by going home. A shift manager told senior management. My colleague was extensively disciplined. Responsible conduct of gaming? I think not.

Nick, a former colleague of mine says clubs are not upholding their duty of a Responsible Service of Alcohol where gamblers are concerned.

“Management overrule staff in regards to intoxicated patrons, because they are heavy gamblers. We aren’t allowed to cut them off or kick them out of the club because they have pull within the club, not because of their attendance, but because of the amount of money they spend.”

Poker machine reforms passed the House of Representatives silently last week. The outcome seems anti-climatic given the furore of Clubs Australia and poker machine lobbyists’ campaign against pre-commitment technology in 2010.

Instead of a having a real debate about problem gambling and its cost on society, many Australians instead debated the character of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and his role in propping up the Gillard Government.

Perhaps the whole conversation should have been about the culture of gambling venues rather than pokies and pokier players.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • James D says:

      05:06am | 07/12/12

      Gambling venues? You mean those places that employ people to facilitate an activity that people voluntarily choose to fulfill? What evil vile people.

      Also “but people who gamble don’t do it voluntarily they are addicted!” - Were they born with this addiction? Does anyone beat this addiction? Does anyone force them at gunpoint to gamble?

      How about this crazy idea. Leave people and their habits alone if they do not directly impact you. But if you feel so strongly about this issue which you a free to do why don’t you gather together like minded people and form a charity? or a working group? And spend your time and valuable resources fighting this epidemic that is dangerous in your mind. You can do all this voluntarily. The government however forces people to change their habits at gunpoint. Using government violence to change peoples habits is a considerably more vile, immoral and dangerous act than gambling will ever be.

      And besides it being immoral government solutions are only laws. Laws are broken. Even the threat of government violence still is not enough to stop people from doing these things. If you ban these activities they will simply go underground and mafia/gang types will do it a LOT more dangerously than business people do.

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:33am | 07/12/12

      @James D - I think you misunderstand the role of government.

      Government protects its citizens and represent them.  Protection includes protections from yourself.  Otherwise, why not let 3 yr olds gamble?  They would certainly enjoy a machine with flashy lights and buttons to press. 

      For whatever reason, there are people with serious health concerns.  The role of government is to balance the protection of our most vulnerable with the right for people to enjoy themselves.

      I agree with you - banning all gambling is not the answer either.  The “All or Nothing” approach you want to bring is fallacious however.

      The “Responsible Service” laws are a good thing, when they’re used properly.  Unfortunately, they are not adequately enforced.  This article is right; no publican is going to evict their most profitable elements.  Just isn’t going to happen.  Why would they?

      The laws made are fine; their enforcement is poor.  In that, the government is failing in its duty of care and should step up its game.

    • Nathan says:

      07:46am | 07/12/12

      it does affect you when they spend their welfare payments and look to other options to raise money which does happen. It is linked to depression which if treated costs the tax payer. Would of thought as a citizen watching behaviour that has negative impacts would impact you.

      “You mean those places that employ people to facilitate an activity that people voluntarily choose to fulfill?” Same can be said for the drug industry doubt you would be a fan of leaving people to it.

      We have RSA that stops people from over drinking why not impose betting limits.

      I could not give a stuff about the people who waste their money but i feel for their families and the next generation who’s parents spend their time sitting infront of a machine

    • Elizabeth says:

      07:50am | 07/12/12

      Most people can go to a drinking venue, consume a moderate amount of alcohol and go home in a rational state of mind.  But we still legislate RSA and regulate closing times in a bit to stem the violence from the few who drink to excess and are then out of control.

      This is not about making pokies illegal.  It’s about (by year 2018 & later for smaller clubs) asking punters to assess how much they want to lose before they play. 

      Sadly while many or most can gamble and have a little fun without going overboard, this is not the case with a few.  Poker machines have left a legacy hungry children, mortgages and rents unpaid, senior citizens in the early stages of dementia racking up huge debts for their families, and workplaces robbed.

    • James D says:

      08:18am | 07/12/12

      Mahhrat i understand the ‘role’ of government. I also understand the the ‘real role’ it plays. Your suggestion that without the law i would let my 3 year old gamble is a true indication of how reliant on the state the mind has become. It is my responsibility as a parent to raise my child in a manner i see fit. If i do a poor job of this there are consequences. If the laws of the state substitute for personal responsibility (or remove the full consequence) as you suggest it simply shifts the responsibility for parenting or anything else out the door and out of mind and forces at gunpoint people to pay for other peoples mistakes and laziness. This is immoral and self destructive.

      Here’s the thing. Laws are not magic. Something being illegal or legal does not stop it from being done. Laws merely encourage people to do things one way or another because they fear the government incarcerating them. BUT it doesn’t actually stop the activity. This is the only tool government has. Threats of violence through law to affect behavior. Government has no other tools.

      Your complaint that the laws are good but they are not enforced is akin to saying well my magic car works i can just never turn it on.

      It doesn’t matter what the government tries to solve, people will fight against it and get around it because the government is incapable of solving these problems. Humanity must evolve beyond this obsession with violence and use other means to solve complex social problems.

      As examples,
      Beating your wife/husband is illegal - do no people beat their wives/husbands?
      Arson is illegal - are there no arsonists?
      Gun crime is illegal - does gun crime not exist?
      Marijuana is illegal largely - do people not smoke/eat it?
      Speeding on roads is illegal - do people not speed?
      Killing people is illegal - does murder not exist? What about war?
      Theft is illegal - does theft not exist? What about taxes?

      Look these are all really tough issues but government is simply incapable of solving them. Humans need to look to solve these complex social problems through other means. Other non violent means. Because government does not make anything better it simply makes people worse off.

    • James D says:

      08:27am | 07/12/12

      Nathan and Elizabeth

      If the government passed a thousand laws each more perfect than the next in order to combat this gambling issue would it be solved? Would there be no gambling to excess? Or would those gamblers actually go underground, or pick up another habit?

      Before you answer consider that in the early 20th century in the USA alcoholism was a huge problem for the US. It destroyed families, it destroyed lives and livelihoods. The govt saw this and banned alcohol. And guess what. Usage rates went UP. Only once the government ended prohibition did usage rates drop.

      The government cannot solve these problems. Laws cannot solve problems. They can only threaten behavioral changes. They don’t even try to understand why some people gamble and others don’t. They simply threaten people into acting one way or another.

      There are other non violent, peaceful solutions out there, and there MUST be solutions. Just not through violence. Open your mind just a little.

    • Lill says:

      08:29am | 07/12/12

      I’d call having to pick up their urine from next to the poker machines being directly affected. But then, I’ve worked in hospitality I know what it’s like.

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:38am | 07/12/12

      Protecting stupid people from themselves is a waste of time and effort.

      Just make sure we don’t waste taxpayer money on these fools. None at all.

      If they resort to crime and I catch them in my house they’ll spend a week being tortured to death like all the other trespassers.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:41am | 07/12/12

      @JamesD - What?  You say I’m wrong but then make my point for me.

      Those things are against the law because they are wrong.  They still happen because people are obviously not in perfect control of themselves.

      It is that lack of control that measure such as RSAs seek to address - by reminding people that there are socially acceptable limits.

      You suggest what I do is immoral?  Your idea is anti-human.  You would rather people die - because left to their own devices, that’s what will happen - than have your personal freedom balanced with society’s general desire to be compassionate and look after those less fortunate. 

      The other point is the one Nathan makes.  These measures protect you from the fallout of real problem gambling - its escalation into crime to pay debts.  That still happens too, but as has been proven time and again, prevention is cheaper than cure.

      I’m sure you want government to protect you from criminals, yes?  The judiciary to punish them?  I’m also assuming you want that done while paying the least amount of tax?  If that’s the case (and it is, and is as it should be), then government needs ways to minimise its expenditure while maximising its result.

      That naturally leads to preventive measures.  Regulation is a part of that preventive measure - to protect people from themselves.

      Your all or nothing attitude to this topic - not to mention linking it to violent crime - tells me you in fact don’t get the “really really real” role of government.

      Protection is not always achieved with a chain link fence and a baton.

    • Tim says:

      09:07am | 07/12/12

      this isn’t a black and white issue.

      Obviously we have to balance personal freedoms against public safety and a functioning society.

      “Your idea is anti-human.  You would rather people die - because left to their own devices, that’s what will happen - than have your personal freedom balanced with society’s general desire to be compassionate and look after those less fortunate. “

      On a lot of issues, yes I would be quite OK with people dying rather than curtailing personal freedoms. It’s all about risk.

      Drug use, alcohol, smoking are all issues where I’ve got no problem with a few people dying rather than banning and limiting people’s personal choices.

      Gambling is another where I don’t think we should regulate any further. We can provide assistance to addicted people but we shouldn’t be limiting everyone else’s freedoms because of these people.

      Personal responsibility should always be the default position.

    • James D says:

      09:15am | 07/12/12

      Mahhrat - Argh, you and others like you mean well but the outcomes of your intentions are so vile and violent.. So those things you mentioned are against the law because they are ‘wrong’???? Wrong according to who? You? Is smoking marijuana wrong? Same sex marriage ‘wrong’? - Socially acceptable limits? acceptable to whom? Society? Who is society? What made society king? Why is there a king? Why if 51% of people believe in something is it a socially accepted limit or law? What if 51% of people say to kill all the blond children? What if 51% of people say interracial marriage is wrong? Why would this be considered right seeing as it is socially accepted? And dont say ‘it doesnt happen’ look through all the atrocities in human history - each of them legal. Slavery for example was legal

      Here is the real thing you dont get. Legality or illegality does not make something moral or right. Fascism was legal in germany. Was it moral?

      And you think you understand the role of government but you dont understand the reality of government. You dont understand the reality of how it makes enforces the laws. It does through violence. It steals money from you to pay itself and pay people to alter others peoples behaviors to the way ‘society’ sees fit - it doesn’t actually solve the problem it just threatens conformity.

      It tells me i am doing a wrong thing by putting me in prison but it doesnt tell me why, or how it was wrong, or what i should do to improve myself. It just hurts me and thats it.

      Mahhrat dont accuse me of wanting to see people die. This is a tactic used by people who are losing to a superior moral argument to attempt to strawman and ad hom and ‘win’. The reality is i am against violent interactions between human beings. And it doesn’t matter what form those violent interactions take i am against them all. Government included. Government doesn’t actually exist beyond violence. It is simply violence and threats of violence. Nothing more.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      09:30am | 07/12/12

      Agree with everything you said James d.

    • Greg says:

      10:06am | 07/12/12

      James D compares Mahhrat to Hitler, then complains that he’s been accused of wanting people to die.  Derp.

      Some stats - over 23% of the world’s poker machines are in Australia, with 10% in NSW alone.  40% of all money lost on poker machines comes from problem gamblers.  State governments tax the hell out of pokie proceeds, hence the state profits from problem gamblers.  And you don’t think the state has any responsibility?  If you’re going to make comparisons to make your point, try some that better reflect the position of the government.  For example, States start selling heroin at pubs and clubs.  Tax it, make ridiculous amounts of money from it.  Turns out heroin is addictive, 40% of the heroin sold is to heroin addicts, which in turn causes significant social problems.  James D’s solution - government has no responsibility, shouldn’t do anything.  I don’t think the pre-commitment stuff will ever work - harm minimisation is a better option - $250 max withdrawals at all gaming venue ATM’s, $1 max bet, and slow them down (time per spin).  (disclaimer - i’m unfortunately a regular pokie player, and a Liberal voter)

    • Mahhrat says:

      10:31am | 07/12/12

      @James D:  Except you are.  You can undermine the point with all the emotion you like, but you are supporting a position where innocents needlessly suffer, because you don’t want to ‘suffer’ yourself.

      In all the points you make, you don’t define freedom.  The only definition of “freedom” I’ve heard that makes any sense is “The ability to do what I want, when I want.”

      Now, I’m sure you don’t mean that, but then what do you mean?

      Your balance to that “freedom” is responsibility, which I applaud, IF (and excuse the caps) THE PERSON CAN ACTUALLY BE RESPONSIBLE.

      A person suffering an addiction cannot be responsible.  They are simply not capable of it.  Now, if the addiction was their fault, then you have a good point.  How do we judge whose fault it is?

      Let’s take gambling.  Why is someone addicted to it?  Gambling is a socially acceptable passtime, so it’s not like smoking with the plain packs and other health measures.

      Do they have problems at home?  An abusive partner?  Is it a mental health issue?  I say mental health issue, because in the case of pokies they target our most vulnerable - those with a disposition to addictive patterns of behaviour. 

      Should we seek to be more responsible in general?  Absolutely.  That comes through education mostly, I would think, but is also by placing limits on what you might call “freedom” to protect the most people in the most efficient way possible.

      I also agree that the way government is run is often wrong, but I see that as a separate argument.  The government, for example, does not ask publicans to break the laws it sets.  (I particularly like the “Pink Batts” fiasco for that argument - they put in place measures to allow for the installation of insulation in homes, and dodgy private enterprise used it to get substandard products and methods, some of which killed people- yet the government is responsible?  What?  If “personal accountability” is the default, the government should not be held accountable for the actions of a few dodgy people)

      People are complex mate.  It’s not enough to simply say “Blanket Whatever” because all you’re doing is moving the impact from you as an innocent to others as an innocent.  “I’m okay right now, stop everything and pull up the ladder”.  I know it’s a tired old cliche, but it’s also true. 

      Your argument is a good one, I don’t doubt that, but this idea of “fairness for all” has a problem when you remember that we’re not all the same.

      Strangely, I think we’re arguing similarly but on different points of the spectrum.  Your idea of personal responsibility is similar to mine.  I agree with you:  There has to be limits, a point at which behaviour is simply unacceptable and “your fault” regardless of your personal circumstances.  To me though, that isn’t where and how we support problem gamblers.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      10:40am | 07/12/12

      Very long thread this. I must have missed something. Is anyone suggesting that the government ban - and send “underground” - gambling altogether?

    • Economist says:

      10:49am | 07/12/12

      Well Greg beat me to it. The fact is the government has created an environment that potentially has a negative social impact. They’ve caved into clubs and pubs. They’ve been far more liberal than other countries resulting in Australia being the second highest gambling nation in the world.

      In order to combat this James D creates a strawman about the evils of government, others attack the author for simply being a whistle blower on these clubs how dare she receive wages and then criticise her employer for not complying with their requirements.

      The fact is Australia has an accessibility problem with poker machines in viturally every suburb/town across the east coast of Australia. I’d much prefer James Packer to have a casino in every state capital and be the only one with the rights to have poker machines.

      Tim, you’re an ACT boy so the vast majority of clubs are run by union hacks in your area, generously giving themselves high remuneration and bugger all back to the community. Next time you visit the Tradies or Labor clubs ask the chairman and committee how much they get, who did their last refurbishment, a mate?

      Governments created the problem While problem gamblers may be small in number the opportunity cost to the community is high. Heroin addicts are smaller in number but account for most petty crime in the ACT, the heroin capital of Australia.

    • Tim says:

      12:52pm | 07/12/12

      What’s the community benefit and tax take from pokies vs the harm to the community through addicts?

      I think the former would be much larger than the latter, particularly in the ACT.

      How much does the government spend on problem gambling?

    • Economist says:

      03:28pm | 07/12/12

      Tim I thought the Productivity Commission report covered of a lot of your questions.

    • Brad says:

      05:14am | 07/12/12

      This is all so terribly true. As a young bloke living in Bondi with my mates, we would drink cheap beer and play snooker at the Diggers club, all subsidised by the gamblers. What I can’t fathom these days are all these clubs and pubs crying poor.The pubs managed to make money back in the day when they just sold grog AND they put bands on. Now they have drones sitting there all day pouring money into machines.

    • SAm says:

      05:31am | 07/12/12

      Thank you for the article. Theres not a lot of people outside those making money off gambling (including governments) that cant see problem we have.
      What got me was the campaign by clubs “why are you voting to hurt our community?”.
      That works (a little) when we are talking about RSL clubs, sport clubs etc. They actually do put back in the community, however I do feel they need to find a more morally responsible income stream.
      The problem was these posters were also in PUBS. Tell me, what has the local been doing for the community of late?
      Its all about the money, and that was enough proof for me to say bugger it, bring in whatever laws are needed to reduce the pokies hold on our country

    • hammy says:

      05:48am | 07/12/12

      I am glad you felt so strongly about the evilness of Pokies that you worked in the industry for three years taking home a weekly wage - living off the industry, those poor pensioners, as it were.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      07:09am | 07/12/12

      Yeah, damn those people having a job and not going on the dole!

      Not everybody likes their job, or even agrees with what they’re doing for a living. But, rent and bills have to be paid. You can’t live on morals.

    • Toady says:

      07:30am | 07/12/12

      I think the correct name for her is Hypocrite. 

      Who cares about problem gamblers?  Why should we care?  It takes a bit of effort to get dressed, grab the handbag, leave the house, travel to the pokies venue, sit down and start pushing the buttons.  I have as much sympathy for them as I do for thieving, bashing, robbery-committing drug addicts.  Their families should be made to deal with the problem, not society.  If it is such a disaster, ban poker machines and remove them from Australia.

    • hammy says:

      08:03am | 07/12/12

      Well obviously you can’t live on morals Nathan, if you don’t have any to start with…

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      08:29am | 07/12/12


      Working in a pokies venue is a pretty easy job to get. A lot of people do it while they’re studying. Would you prefer them leeching off Centrelink?

    • Tim says:

      09:09am | 07/12/12

      Nathan Explosion,
      I’d prefer they don’t take a job in a pokies venue if they’re so against their use.

      If you take the job and the money, you lose all credibility if you then want to rail against pokie use.
      If it’s such a problem, the author was the leech.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:21am | 07/12/12

      I’ve seen some stupid things on the punch, but saying the author can’t comment because she took the dollar? One might say she’s the most qualified person in the room to speak on this topic.

    • Tim says:

      10:50am | 07/12/12

      Modern Primitive,
      I didn’t say she couldn’t talk, I said she loses all credibility and she does.
      She didn’t work there a week, she worked there three years.

      And she conveniently leaves out all the benefits that these places bring to the community and simply focuses on what she sees as the negatives. Doesn’t mention any positives about clubs yet she stayed there for three years?  It paid her bills and kept her fed and housed.

    • Ex says:

      10:56am | 07/12/12


      Is that like you have no experience with Policing, so you shouldn’t be able to comment on practice and procedures?  According to your own standards, you realise you aren’t qualified and have no authority on the subject.

    • Caedrel says:

      01:26pm | 07/12/12

      @hammy You seem to be assuming that the author knew what it was like before she started working there. It sounds to me like it’s something that been bothering her more and more before it has finally reached the point where she’s had to quit, and felt strongly enough to write about it. Three years seems about right to me to reach that sort of conclusion - if she’d worked there for 10 years instead, you might have had a point. Even then, it might NOT have been like that for the first 7 years of her tenure there, but been something started small but has grown and grown until she couldn’t take it any more. Ask her if she’d work in a club AGAIN, after experiencing this and writing this article, before accusing her of hypocrisy.

    • hammy says:

      03:08pm | 07/12/12


      Perhaps someone should have informed me that you make the rules for submissions.

    • ronny jonny says:

      06:33am | 07/12/12

      If there was ever an example of the duplicitous nature of Julia Gillard the Wilkie pokies deal is it. Promised him the world to get his support and the very minute they no longer needed it, he was dropped like the proverbial warm turd. The disapointing thing was that he has never withdrawn his support from the government so in my opinion has gone from somewhat honourable to hopelessly compromised and tainted by his acceptance of the crumbs Gillard has thrown him.
      Pokies are a blight on society, we could do without them.

    • Old Wise Voter says:

      07:24am | 07/12/12

      You are right about Wilkie, he has lost all credibility,along with all of the independents, I suspect you could also put all the politicians into the same basket.

    • Pedro says:

      11:41am | 07/12/12

      I am guessing had the independents decided to get into bed with Abbott (remember he promised them the world and they did not believe him), then he would have kept all his promises?
      In 2014 I am looking forward to seeing him in his red speedos, tow rope in mouth, towing the boats back to Indonesia.
      Anyway must visit Whyalla befor eit becomes a ghost town.

    • Colin says:

      06:53am | 07/12/12

      Gambling, alcohol, corruption, and the pandering to the baser things in life to make a buck…Ah, Australia;  once a penal colony full of thieving convict low-life, today it’s not a penal colony…

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:18am | 07/12/12

      I enjoy a spot of poker and a few drinks every now and again, and that’s about the extent of my gambling problem.

      What have you got against “the baser things in life”?  Why do you sneer down your nose at anyone who enjoys different things to you?

    • Thirsty says:

      07:07am | 07/12/12

      Great article, pretty bloody accurate as well. This is the life in the gambling industry.
      Those above that are bagging the writer because she worked in the industry, seriously, grow the fuck up…people have to eat. A job is a job is a job, no matter what it is. Why shoot the messenger, why not comment on the basis of the article?
      But I must say, we don’t need pre commitment technology. The easiest way to reduce problem gambling is removing note acceptors from the machines, forcing the players to walk to a “kiosk” to exchange notes for $1 coins. With note acceptors, gamblers can be anonymous, take this away from them, most will be too embarrassed to keep going to the bar to get more coins. This would also allow Clubs to fulfill their bullshit story by having to employ more staff to attend the change bar

    • Toady says:

      08:29am | 07/12/12

      Well, it’s a bit rich lecturing us on the evils of gambling after making a living from it for three years.  “A job is a job…”  so why didn’t she find another job?  Too lazy?  Not really that concerned about it after all?  But now she’s writing for a living, I guess she has to stand for something.  Still a hypocrite.

    • Thirsty says:

      11:34am | 07/12/12

      Having a part time job in a club to support yourself through Uni is not “making a living”
      So non-drinkers are hypocrites for working in a pub?
      Are Salvos hypocrites for going into pubs to ask for donations?
      For Christ sake, how about you delve into the body of the article and comment on what is being said, that is, problem gambling is a massive issue
      On another note, if someone isn’t involved in an industry, how do they know what is going on in it?

    • AFR says:

      12:16pm | 07/12/12

      Spot on Thirsty.

      I’m happy to give a similar example…... early in my career, I took a job with a boss who I quickly found to be very dodgy. Nothing criminal per se, but I had to constantly compromise my own personal morals and professional ethics. It sucked big time. After just over 2 years I was head-hunted to a larger and thankfully much more reputable firm.

      Why did I do it? Well, for a few reasons. Firstly, I work in a fairly small industry, and changing jobs too often in your resume is simply frowned upon. But most importantly - I had bills to pay.

      Back to Thirty’s comments - from my years working as a Receiver and Liquidator of many hospitality venues, I think there are many things that can be done to help with problem gambling whilst not affecting the majority of punters, these would include:

      - Slowing spins
      - Mandatory rests every hour
      - No smoking or table service in pokie rooms, regardless of where they are located (some of the attempts to create “outdoor” gambling areas are laughable).
      - Slowing spins
      - Reducing maximum bet per spin
      - Reducing the most you can feed a machine at any one time down to, say, $20 (which has previously been proposed).
      - Limiting ATM withdrawals in gambling venues and moving ATMs further from gaming areas (something already done in Victoria).
      - Severely reducing the cash payout from its current level of $2,000.
      - Any plenty of others.

      I’m personally against pre-committment as it seems a little pointless, when there are cheaper options with little impact on the average player.

      I would also like to point out, that people also often point to the great community work clubs do with sponsoring footy teams, providing buses for old ladies etc. This is one great big myth. In NSW at least, most clubs give the bare minimum to charity as is required under the law. If they don’t they have top pay extra pokie tax instead.

      I am one of the many who chuck a tenner in occasionally (and thankfully never became addicted), but overall, poker machines are a huge net loss for society. You do realise who the biggest pokie barons are in the country are, don’t you? Their names are Coles and Woolworths.

    • Thirsty says:

      01:19pm | 07/12/12

      +1 buddy
      I am an accountant and auditor for a number of small Clubs in NSW
      A small Club that I look after is struggling big time, the reason, 3 of “their” problem gamblers were encouraged to go down the road to the other Club, free membership, free soft drinks
      End result, my Club went from a $40,000 profit to a $50,000 loss…everything else in the Club stayed more or less than the same
      Yes, both Clubs sponsor community sporting groups, but guess what, only if that group agrees to drink at the Club after their home games, otherwise, the Club stops sponsorship the next year
      Yes, Clubs NSW, doing a fantastic job of fucking our community over, whilst lining the pockets of our Pollies all at the same time

    • Movin On says:

      05:10pm | 07/12/12

      @Thirsty - I used to work in a club before there were note accepters, and I’ll tell you, it makes no difference if they have to come up to the counter. There was still plenty of people willing to come in 4 to 5 days a week and change their notes to coin. Funny thing was, when they weren’t in our establishment, they were in another one, so they actually gambled 7 days a week. They would try to cover their (gambling addictions) embarrassment by visiting three or four establishments during the week. When the note accepters came in, my boss had the bank fill the ATM at the front door with $20 notes instead of $50 notes, because at the time, many would put in a $20, but a $50 was a bit too large(now it’s quite usual to see people put in $50’s or $100’s). You only need one change chick in the change counter. 8 hour Day shift and 8 hour night shift at regular venues, day, evening and night shift at late openers.
      The only thing my boss was really strict on was leaving the kids in the car in the car park if you were inside gaming(note, we didn’t call it gambling), those people he would bar for life.
      I remember reading a news story about one of our members, she had been caught stealing from her work, (and she was clever about it), to feed her pokies addiction. It really didn’t surprise me either.

    • Terry2 says:

      07:29am | 07/12/12

      During this debate one of the suggestions to counter problem gambling (in addition to pre-commitment and one dollar spins) was to limit the hours that the gambling facility can remain open. One suggestion was a maximum of ten hours per day (i.e. 10.00am to 2.00pm and 4.00pm to 10.00pm) coupled with a ‘no food or drink’ requirement in the gambling area. This article clearly shows that some regulation on opening hours is essential
      It can’t be that hard,surely ?

    • dweezy 2176 says:

      07:30am | 07/12/12

      Andrew Wilkie, the consummate pollie! He saw a way to get his name in lights but when push came to shove the lure of the snout in the trough rewards overcame any high principles!

    • dibatag says:

      07:36am | 07/12/12

      agree with ronny jonny if Wilkie had any real moral fibre he would have withdrawn his support of gillard,i could never figure Rudd hanging on like he has after being humiliated by gillard and the labor party just what is his point

    • Al says:

      07:51am | 07/12/12

      Is gambling on pokies legal for a person 18+? Yes.
      Is gambling a choice? Yes. (There is no physical addiction and we can’t force people to stop being delusional).
      Pokies are a blight on society, we could do without them? Yes, but should we be forcing others to conform to our choices? No.
      I have no issues with pokies and have chossen not to pour my money into them, but refuse to condem someone who chooses to do so. (Yes, even if it means they starve).
      I would recommend that those against them start their own charity to assist those who are impacted by ‘problem gamblers’ (like their families).

    • sharon Hollamby says:

      08:47am | 07/12/12

      First of all congratulations to this worker who has spoken out.  Secondly, to those people who say it is not their problem really need to look at how their world is being affected by problem gambling. Businesses are closing because the money is going into these machines instead of into the tills of local business. Charities are affected both by less people being able to afford to donate and by the strain of people going there for help. Our health system is becoming overloaded with those suffering depression etc.  The government are supposed to protect the people and that shouldn’t just mean the rich which is how it is at the moment, but ALL the people. Now for those who say gambling is a choice, please do your research before you mouth off on here. These machines are designed to addict you, they have a hypnotic element and as 90% of the population are susceptible to being hypnotised then 90% of the population are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. When you first start gambling the operant conditioning sucks you in but it is the hypnotic quality of machines that keeps you going back. Many people are unaware of this and I believe that being unknowingly hypnotised by an unqualified practitioner(the machine) should be illegal. Add to this the sleazy underhanded practices that this person has tried so hard to point. Stop blaming those who innocently went in to put a couple of dollars in and enjoy a bit of so called entertainment, but instead fell prey to the hypnotic nature of these machines. As for our government, the only reason they are not doing anything about this problem is because of the huge’DONATIONS’ that they receive to prevent any proposed bill from going through. Look around the world, open your eyes, we are not the only country fighting this problem.

    • Toady says:

      09:49am | 07/12/12

      Two things - the money blown on the pokies by ‘addicts’ is not really that much, when you separate it from the money spent by casual pokies players.  So, it doesn’t have that much of an effect on retail spending.  The weak suckers would blow their dough on other stuff that gives them a rush or satisfies an itch - grog, cigarettes, drugs, junk food.  Sure, ban all pokies and we might see the money going into business, but is it necessary to point out that pokies venues are businesses, and the money filters through to workers, contractors, service providers, shareholders, super funds, etc? 
      Secondly, poker machines are not addictive if you don’t go into the venue in the first place.  Funny, but I’ve been into lots of venues and spent a little bit of money here and there, but never become addicted by the hypnotic quality of the machines.  Neither have any of my family and friends.  90% of people are at risk of being hypnotised by them?  I guess there’s an element of witchcraft and superstitious mumbo-jumbo in there, too.  Do the suckers stay hypnotised after they leave the venue? 

      You are describing weak people - adults (kids aren’t allowed into the venues) who should be able to control themselves better.  Their families need to deal with the problem, not the government.  this is yet another example of a weak minority dictating policy that affects the majority.

    • David C says:

      09:02am | 07/12/12

      Scanning this “conversation”, the trouble with most of these comments is that they never change, nor change anything - at best, they would serve as an excellent demonstration of the top 20 logical fallacies for students of cognitive science; at worst, an example of cut and paste diatribes between ideological barrow pushers whose chief hobby seems to be a narcissistic love affair with their keyboards.
      The chief reason we form a society is to protect the innocent, weak and helpless.
      I began to lose faith in our system of government around the time it began it’s great love affair with revenue from casinos and pokies.
      The devastation these places create in families and society is overwhelming, the impact on the live music industry and the way Australia entertains itself in general is very sad and lessens the quality of our culture.
      We seem to be developing a nanny state, penalty-based culture where the wealthy may afford to be as decadent as they wish and everyone else merely survives and the moral bankruptcy of our policies is justified by tax income,
      The recent debates on this site on the gambling blight, global warming, welfare payments and politics in general have been embarrassing examples of shallow understanding of issues, preconceived ideas and a back-slapping orgy of self-congratulatory misinformation and bigotry between partially educated people who wallow in their prejudice and wear their ignorance as a badge of pride.
      The latest generation of young people seem to be more aware, alert and media savvy than any other before. Hopefully they can see through your moral and intellectual torpor - these bright young minds may be our only hope - because it certainly seems there is no hope for many of you.

    • martinX says:

      10:15am | 07/12/12

      All the online gambling sites are running ads targeting the current generation of young people. Gambling will become easier, quicker and more mainstream.

    • Tim says:

      02:37pm | 07/12/12

      What a horribly supercilious comment. Denigrate others but produce very little argument of your own.

      I would think the chief reason we form a society is to benefit everyone as a whole, not protect people from themselves.
      The unproductive in society survive only through the generosity of the productive.

    • Mike Ryan says:

      09:37am | 07/12/12

      Freeze gaming machines in use at their current levels. Reduce gaming machines by 10% per annum. Slow change is good change.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      10:36am | 07/12/12

      Thank you for this honest assessment and account of your experience.

      I have often suggested there must be a link between excess alcohol and gambling (you’d need some drug to sit there playing such a boring ‘game’ hours on end!). In fact, I made a comment not long ago on a Punch article saying just that. Of course, I was immediately shot down by a an alleged very experienced expert who bullied me, writing of his vast club experience as a club employee advising me that just wasn’t true. Silly me!
      But the government certainly doesn’t want to ‘go THERE’ as they would have more pressure to address the serious alcohol issues we have across Australia. So don’t expect any evidence-based research on that issue too soon. If you don’t ask the question…...

    • Michael S says:

      10:38am | 07/12/12

      I’ve never understood the appeal of pokies. There’s no skill, no way to exploit your opponent’s weakness, no way to tilt the odds in your favour. I think I’ve played the pokies once in my life, and by the time I’d lost my $10 I was already bored with it.
      But there’s no doubt they do suck people in. The lengths people will go to in order to sit at those machines, like hypnotised zombies, for hour after hour and day after day is unbelievable.

      If it didn’t hurt anyone else, then I’d use the “personal responsibility, who cares” line. But our society is going through an epidemic of embezzled businesses, bankruptcies & bad loans, child neglect and relationship breakdown as a direct result of poker machines.
      The pre-commitment laws aren’t just about trying to protect people from themselves. It’s also about protecting innocent victims.

    • Aussie Wazza says:

      11:04am | 07/12/12

      What limit do you want to put on yourself today?

      Is this a calculated figure based on income, living expenses, spare cash, or just a number pulled from your head?

      ‘I will set a limit of $1 million.” will be the easy answer.


      1/ Most cars have a maximum speed warning alarm.

      Mine is set on 195 k.p.h. Police like this as they have a better chance of selling a ticket for their masters than if gadget was set at 5k.p.h. below the speed limit.

      Why my setting? It’s a pain having the alarm going off every time I pass someone driving at 10 k.p.h. under the limit. No matter how often, the sudden blare takes your concentration off the real job.

      Young people out for the night being told to declare a drink limit (but no maximum set by gov. or clubs) will write in ‘500 litres’. Some will try to meet their set figure.

      Pokies are just too pretty and hyptnoizing. They dangle the carrot of ‘‘BIG pay almost lined up’ and ‘due for a 10 free games win’.

      Pretty lights and magic messages.  Five coin win gets you a ‘YOU ARE A WINNER, WELL DONE’ message even though you are playing twenty lines, which in truth means on that spin you actually lost fifteen coins.

      Want to cut the problem?

      Cut the pretty lights
      Cut the ‘music’
      Cut the ‘free’ spins.

      After each spin, a message Laughter and ‘SUCKER’ or ‘WAKE UP FOOL’ message.

      Lock down machine after 30 minutes play for a fifteen minute interlude.

      None of these will happen.

      Asking the government to fix the problem is like asking the publicans to police it.

    • Reg Whiteman says:

      01:19pm | 07/12/12

      I love playing the pokies. I love it when I get the feature and the bells and the lights flash and you hear that brrrrzzz brrrrzzz as the credit meter rings up another 500 credits. I have been playing pokies since about 1972 and, in all that time, I have won the major prize ... ONCE. I got all five Indians plus the tepees during the feature on an Indian Dreaming Machine. That was in July 2003 and I walked out with $1000 in cash and a cheque for $1,750.

      I am also very good at mathematics and know that that win was an absolute fluke; probably the same odds as winning Keno (i.e. about 8 million to 1, but better than Lotto or Powerball at around fifty million to 1). But I am an optimist and a dreamer and live in the sure and certain conviction that one day I’ll crack the Trains - like my mate did and won nearly $10,000.

      Despite my one big win that had every bell and whistle blaring, lights flashing and a whole throng of people standing around to watch me with huge admiration and envy, I am still well behind over the forty years I have been playing them.

      I usually set a limit to lose of about $200 and I stick to it until I reach about the 6th schooner and then all reason and sense goes straight out the window and I convince myself that I’m due for a big win; that I have a magical property that will beat the odds that I know, rationally, can’t be beaten. Last June I went to a big Leagues Club in Sydney. My team beat Manly that day and I was happy. I was up $400, shouted a big feed for me and my lady friend, bought two bottles of their best red, and felt ten feet tall and bullet proof. At 3:00AM I’d lost that $400 plus another $600 +. I could hardly stumble back to the Club’s motel and then had to be out of the room by 10 and had the rottenest hangover in history.

      Then I realised how much I had lost and the self-recrimination set in. All those hours driving home, knowing I had bills to pay, that I’m a retiree on a fixed income and all the rest - and I had a few days of utter misery and gave myself a few upper-cuts.

      But no-one forced me to do it. In reality I loved every minute of it; even losing was cathartic to some extent. I’ll do it again, I know that. I know the odds are stacked right against me. I’m not addicted, I can chose not to play as I’ve done for about the last three months - but I do love them.

      Next time I play I’ll stick to my limit, leave the cash-card at home, and try to drink coke after the fourth schooner. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally get those five trains on the hyper-link and I’ll walk out of that club feeling like a world champion. I’ll be generous to everyone and blow the lot nearly as quickly as I won it.

    • Knemon says:

      03:47pm | 07/12/12

      Great stuff Reg grin

    • tez says:

      03:57pm | 07/12/12

      Ray I hate pokies can’t stand the bells and smells.

    • Al says:

      01:35pm | 07/12/12

      Here is a real thing to consider:
      Does ANYONE actualy think that putting restrictions on (or even removing) poker machines will have ANY effect on the gambling behaviour by ‘problem gamblers’?
      It is a little like an alcoholic who excludes themselves from one local pub, yet is still able to go to another location (in the case of gambling just try the internet) and continue with their chossen behaviour.
      In other words, it will simply move the gambling and the money will then flow to the new sources (many located offshore).
      The only way to remove this is to get the ‘problem gamblers’ to choose to not do this, thats right, choose.

    • AFR says:

      02:03pm | 07/12/12

      They possible will Al, but only up to a limit. Pokies are the biggest type of gambling used by “problem gamblers” by a country mile. They are so accessible, so anonymous and so quick to take your money. Other forms of gambling (horses, lotteries, even online stuff) does attract its addicts, but their numbers pale in comparison. Must admit I don’t have an exact source at my fingertips, but due to my previous life as a Receiver and Liquidator in the industry, I read they initial couple of reports from the productivity commission into pokie reform a few years ago.

      I don’t think banning pokies is the answer either, but more can always be done to try to empower problem gamblers to beat their addictions - not just for them, but their families and the community.

    • Harsh Reality says:

      02:37pm | 07/12/12

      Pokies and clubs are brilliantly designed systems for extracting money from idiots and channeling it into the community. Idiots will always be idiots, and community organisations need money. Perfect really.

    • chuck says:

      03:11pm | 07/12/12

      Cassie are you are no better than the legal fraternity and others who make their living from the plight of others?
      When will people like you learn that you and you alone are responsible for your actions and even though I rarely gamble or bet I don’t need people like you to tell me what to do.

    • Gabby Cabbie says:

      03:25pm | 07/12/12

      The answer is not to ban them but to place a limit on what can be ‘invested’ on each pull, the amount of pulls per hour and the blind encouragement of the machines.

      I drive a taxi weekend nights.

      Now Christmas party time with big lines at the city ranks people comment that I must be making a fortune.


      I am inhibited by the speed limits and can only do one trip at a time. Busy or quiet it still takes 20 minutes from here to there, or 30 thirty minutes to somewhere else.

      The number of jobs I can do (earnings) is limited by the speed I can travel. Lift the speed limit to 150 k/p/h and my earnings will go up. Cut the limit to 20 k/p/h/ and the income will go down. I only have so much time per shift.

      Translate that logic to poker machines and you get the same result. 1 pull each 10 seconds = 360 pulls an hour. 1 pull each 20 seconds = 180 pulls an hour. No matter who we are the venue is only open so many hours AND there are only 24 hours in anyones day.

      Next limit the size of a play. I hear people saying they only play 1 cent machines.

      BUT you can ‘invest’ 20 coins and play (up to) 50 lines. AT EVEN ONLY 5 CENTS X 20 LINES THATS $1.00 A PULL.


      Have straight san serif numbers or letters. NO MORE pretties.

      BOORING? You bet.

      Try this with a baby (2y/o). Buy 2 spinning tops . Paint one all grey.

      Get both spinning and then open the door and let the baby into the room. Watch to which top the baby goes.


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