don’t feed the gamblers

Anglicare Tasmania was in the news recently as a result of their idea to remove chairs from gaming rooms, or poker machine venues. The suggestion was contained in their submission to the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform’s inquiry into problem gambling prevention & treatment, and it caused a bit of a stir.

The point, as Anglicare Tasmania CEO Chris Jones explained, was to break up the gambling experience. As he said:

“If they want a break, they can sit elsewhere, but they don’t need to take a seat in front of a machine.”

Not surprisingly, Clubs Australia came out swinging. Media boss and spokesman Jeremy Bath cranked the over-reaction dial up to eleven when he responded to the idea with this:

“It’s clear there is an element of the church that has been hijacked by the anti-gambling lobby and whose recommendations are more about physically punishing problem gamblers than helping them.”

I don’t think anyone really believes that removing chairs from gaming rooms is part of some covert plot to “physically punish” poker machine addicts… and besides, from what I’ve seen the industry is already doing a pretty good job of that themselves!

Me? I like the idea. So long as there were stools available that could be brought out, upon request, for those who need them, what’s wrong with it? Heck, I know how easy it is to settle into that chair, lean back and let everything slip away… so if standing up might help, then why not?

But it got me thinking. Good poker machine reform has to be about changing the playing experience. The best and most obvious way of doing that is to change the machines themselves, and I unequivocally believe that this has to happen. But there’s another way of changing the playing experience that can happen right now.

Let’s make gaming rooms food-free, drink-free, alcohol-free zones.

Why not? They’re already smoke-free, much to the disgust of the industry which dragged their heels on THAT one for as long as they could. They still moan about the drop in revenue that happened when smoking bans kicked in… never mind the whole cancer/emphysema thing, or looking after their patrons.

So let’s go one step further. No eating or drinking in gaming rooms. At all. If a poker machine player wants a drink or a bite to eat, then there’s nothing stopping them from walking out of the gaming room and into the bar, bistro or restaurant, and satisfying that need.

This isn’t a new idea, and it’s not an attack on anyone’s rights. Who can honestly say that they would fight for their right to eat hot chips while playing a poker machine? That’s bordering on absurd. And it’s not like there’s any shortage of food or drink in these places… we’re talking about pubs and clubs after all.

It would be more hygienic too. Imagine all those drinks spilt, all those greasy fingers from bowls of chips pressing the buttons… no need for that any more. A more pleasant and mess-free environment for everyone.

And in many ways it’s a merger of the responsible service of alcohol with the responsible service of gambling. No drinking while gambling. Simple, and far easier for staff to understand and implement.

So how about it? Should poker machine rooms become food/drink-free zones? It just may encourage people to take a break from their machines once in a while… a concept everyone, from the counsellors to the advocates to the government to the industry, supports. It may help prevent some people from developing problems with their gambling, while we wait for the fundamental machine reforms to kick in.

And it wouldn’t cost a single dollar to implement.

What do you think?

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3 Responses

  1. traceyb65 says:

    *sigh* YES! common sense and stoking the fires of the gambling gremlins are so rarely compatible … not the clubs will ever admit that is what they are doing, just a harmless evening’s entertainment for consenting adults, blah blah blah.

    a few more ideas: how about a clearly visible clock … and natural light? asking too much? kudos to Anglicare Tasmania CEO Chris Jones for his clear thinking. xt

  2. Cathy says:

    I mentioned the issue of food and drink in my submission to the PC a few years ago. Depending on which club I was at, I regularly used the service button on the machines to get tea, coffee/biscuits etc. Despite my doing this I was very well aware of it being just another way of keeping people at the machines. For different reasons, it really is better to get up and go away from them if you need to eat and drink.

    Concerning the removing of chairs, this is something that occurred to me a long time ago. I have been corresponding with Jim Orford in England for quite some time now and about 5 years ago I brought this particular aspect up. I said the following about it to him:

    Lastly I will just mention a few of the hazards of playing EGM’s apart from what has already been said.

    It took me ages to wake up to this but what facilitates many problems – is the humble chair. In fact, I did a few little experiments on myself. I found that by only standing up and playing them, after a while I was becoming agitated and my concentration on being involved in playing was disrupted. I started to think more about my discomfort and eventually I thought that if I didn’t sit down, I would have to leave. The next time I went, I sat down straight away and took note, I found that sitting encourages relaxation and allows a more intense concentration on the machines. Sitting enables one to stay for many hours with a more or less continuous concentration but standing for hours, with no possibility of sitting, cannot be endured, except perhaps only by those who are the most determined. From this, I figure that one way to avoid problems and most importantly, to not get overly fixated is to stand up and play. Besides, once you become tired of standing it probably is a good indication that you have been playing them long enough.

  3. Cathy says:

    Just adding a bit to what I said earlier.

    http://www.geminiresearch.com/The_Norway_Papers

    The above link shows that standing up and playing is not such an odd concept. I came across this article quite some ago and kept it because I could relate it to my own experience (I had to go to a lot of trouble to find it again). If the article is read it will be seen that it states (for whatever time it is applicable) “The gambling machines in Norway are generally located in full view of members of the public and lack seating and other amenities to encourage long sessions of play.”

    It goes without saying that all these types of measures are just peripheral and are no match for the reforms that are really required.

    Apart from what you have already said in relation to the claim of Australia supposedly not really having ‘high intensity’ machines. In their submission (DR344) to the Productivity Commission the GTA stated the following

    Country Maximum Bet AU$
    (equivalent at 3-Dec-09)
    Macau SAR HK 1,000 139.68
    Nevada USA US 100 108.25
    Norway NOK 50 9.62
    Sweden SEK 20 3.15

    This indicates what is already assumed about there being at least some places in the world that have high bet limits. In relation to the first two, not only are they dedicated gambling establishments but it would only be a minority of people betting that kind of money per spin anyway. As is well known, our problem is the machines are in 1000’s of community venues whose clientele are generally ordinary people who cannot afford to lose the huge amounts of money that can potentially be lost when playing $10, $5 or whatever per spin.

    As for Norway, this amount of nearly $10 per spin appears to have only come about after the changes (before it was only 10 NOK per spin not 50 see link below). These machines are now restricted to the point where the government literally dictates how much people can spend per day/month on them. Nothing like what is being proposed in Australia in relation to pre commitment.

    http://www.easg.org/media/file/vienna2010/presentations/Thursday/1330/P2/4_Jonny_Engebo.pdf

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