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The attack of the pokies

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Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal Casino (Image by Mark Goebel via Flickr).

Matthew Coscia provides an insider's view on the deceptive ways of the gaming industry.

I WAS EMPLOYED in the gaming industry for eight years and served in a number of roles, including gaming employee, gaming manager and also duty manager. During this time, I worked in several venues throughout metropolitan Adelaide and country South Australia.

One of the venues I worked at in Adelaide was the busiest gaming venue in South Australia. It was open until 5am in the morning each day.

It wasn't unusual to have 100 people or so in the gaming room lining up to play on one of the 40 machines when neighbouring venues had closed.

Over time, I became increasingly disillusioned with the industry. I wanted to bring to light the negative impacts this industry was having on society. People were engaging in self-destructive behaviours on an almost daily basis.

These included:

  • betting more than they had intended; 
  • continually chasing losses;
  • patrons continuing to gamble until closing time and then getting distressed once the machine turned off;       
  • talking of what they will do with the money when they get that "big win"; and
  • having the same patrons frequent the venue on an almost daily basis.

Poker machines in Australia have been misleading consumers for years with the statement they have on many machines: 'Maximum win per gamble is $10,000' and other variations of this misleading statement, including: 'Maximum win 999,999 credits per spin.'

These very manipulative statements are on a large number of pokies, which vastly overstate the actual amount of money it is possible to win on them.

An example of this is the Dolphin Treasure machine – whose manufacturer, Aristocrat pokies, was recently taken to the Federal Court – where the “jackpot” is five suns in a row. On a one cent machine, playing one credit per line pays 9,000 credits (or $90 on the 1 cent machine). If you were to bet max credits per line, which on many of these machines is 10 credits per line, this figure only increases to 90,000 (or $900 on a one cent machine).

There is also the possibility you could achieve this during free games, while betting maximum credits per line which would then triple the win. However, this still only results in a maximum payout of 270,000 (or $2,700 on a one cent machine).

This is still significantly lower than the “999,999 credits per spin” suggested in many statements advertised on these machines.

The payout figures mentioned above are comparable to most machines on the market at the moment. The vast exaggerations made by manufacturers regarding potential payouts is attracting people to these weapons of mass destruction.

It's leading too many down the path of problem gambling.

Fortunately, the attitudes towards problem gambling are slowly starting to shift. With more and more people get involved with tackling this issue, we are starting to gain some momentum. Soon, we will be able to make the changes that need to happen.

Matthew Coscia is hoping to create awareness with his Gambling Awareness Facebook page. You can look it up here.

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