elvis – the man, the legend… the poker machine

Today is the day Tatts and Tabcorp exit the Victorian poker machine scene. It’s a fundamental shift in the way the industry will operate in this state, and the ramifications are yet to be determined. Tatts have already announced they are packing up and moving to Queensland, and they (along with Tabcorp) are threatening to sue the Victorian government for $1.3 billion. Poker machines across the state have changed hands, with more gaming entitlements being sold than there are machines in operation… it’s a pivotal day.

But for millions of people around the world, today is significant for a completely different reason. Today is the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley.

How do you think the poker machine industry would commemorate such an occasion?

Like this.

Poker machine manufacturer IGT, one of this country’s largest providers of gambling equipment and an official sponsor of a huge section of the clubs industry, has come up with the “Elvis The King” poker machine. It will be on display at the Australasian Gaming Expo, which starts in five days.

According to IGT, this “celebrates the enduring legacy of music from the King”. Personally I think it tramples all over it.

The machine features music and film clips from Elvis’ career. It appears nothing is sacred, not even the memory of one of the greatest performers we have ever seen.

This poker machine also features “multi-layer display”, an innovation from IGT that produces 3D graphics. It’s interesting (although not surprising) to note that this “innovation” has not been tested or trialled to determine what social impact it might have. Will this kind of technological advance lead to gamblers spending more, which in turn would lead to an increase in problematic gambling behaviour? I believe so. But as always, the industry rolls out untried, untested technology with scant regard for the consequences beyond their own pockets.

Elvis isn’t dead. He’s in a pub or club, waiting to take your money. Thanks, IGT.

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5 Responses

  1. Braveheart says:

    Hi Tom,

    The advertising and consumer industries have always purloined the creative works of others. Nothing new there. The pokie industry, including machine designers, have gotten this down to a fine art. Unfortunately, it’s part of the the nature of the economy in which we live.

    If you look at the older pokie machines you can see how they co-opt myths, legends, current popular culture, music – the whole shebang. I recently saw a pokie machines which uses the old Phantom story, including a component emphasizing the Phantom ring. The Phantom was a comic hero of my childhood and all of us had various kinds of Phantom rings 🙂

    Yes, they’re designed to suck people in, just like all advertising. Fast food outlets do the same with possibly as many social consequences as the pokie industry. Some of these include horribly cruel mass farming of animals, fat-laden but attractively promoted burgers and chips, labour exploitation of young people et al.

    All part of the economy we value so much. Many people see nothing wrong with it. That itself is the greatest barrier to change.

    Back to pokies specifically, I think we just need to persevere in our attempts to curtail the industry. We do this through talking about the facts, the huge financial losses to individuals, families and communities, the personal stories, ongoing political action. It will take time, possibly decades, but I do feel that we are making slow changes.

    This week’s High Court validation of the current Government’s decisions around plain packaging of cigarettes is heartening. Who could ever have imagined this would happen? Reaching this point has taken decades.

    Many individuals have had their lives changed and helped along the way in terms of tobacco and pokie gambling addiction. It is easy to overlook that, too, but it is a prime motivation for the ongoing campaign to dis-empower the pokie industry.

    Glad to see you writing on this web page again, because your work is also a critical part of the story.

  2. Braveheart says:

    Perhaps I need to qualify my last paragraph (above).

    The work that the anti gambling/health promotion lobby has done so far has actually had success in prevention and harm minimisation. We need to acknowledge that.

    The other idea, probably quite controversial, is that we can’t stop everyone going down the path of addiction. Sometimes that and the recovery path are the means by which they may come to self-awareness and understanding and the need for connection to others, the need for a healthy community.

    Of course, there is no justification for the way the pokie industry is constructed at present – the greed, the exploitation by the industry and by Governments – but there are other scripts to this saga as well.

    I think these scripts are about how we make meaning from life in a sometimes crass world. That is different for each of us, and something which possibly only recovered addicts understand for themselves. Some people would say it is a wider spiritual view. Not everyone understands that or agrees with it either 🙂

  3. Chris says:

    The moves initiated by Premier John Brumby to side line Tatts and TabCorp from poker machines profits was based around the reality that the poker machine industry in Victoria had “matured”.
    This means that poker machine expenditure plateaued and growth stagnated.

    How was government to increase its share of the expenditure (tax)?
    Answer – ditch the middle men.

    How was government meant to secure the position of its tax collectors in the form of pubs and clubs in a stagnating industry?
    Answer – ditch the middle men.

    So overnight, the government increased its tax by 17% and profits for pubs and clubs with poker machines jumped 17%.

    Still it’s a good sign that the poker machine industry has matured and with Roy Morgan reporting a 16% slump in poker machine expenditure across the nation (12 months to March 2012), that maturation is continuing for whatever reasons.

  4. Anon says:

    Interesting comments, Chris.

    Gambling losses haven’t decreased where I live. They went up $2 million, a lot of money in a poor community.

    John Brumby was always an economic rationalist. He had a chance to totally change the pokie industry and blew it. He deserved to get kicked out in 2010.

    Does ‘matured’ mean ‘on-the-nose’? I’d agree with Roy Morgan then.

    Perhaps we won’t have to wait 30 years for Government to begin seeing problem gambling as a public health issue then? Whe it starts costing the State money in welfare and health costs, the State might change its mind. Here’s hoping – but I am a bit of cynic. 🙂

  5. Familyman says:

    Next they’ll have religous themes on machines.
    For the christians .when there is a win Jesus will raise lazurus from the dead and the angels will sing.
    For the jews Moses will appear and take the player to the promised land. Etc Etc

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