Every now and then I come across something in the gaming industry that leaves me gobsmacked. For that reason, I started the Sneaky Bastards File a while back, and I started dropping companies and venues into it when I saw fit.
But the more I see, the more I get used to the shenanigans of the poker machine industry… and the Sneaky Bastards File has been gathering dust of late. But today I’ve taken it out, given it a good airing and put it back into circulation.
There’s a union called the CMAA; that’s the Club Management Association of Australia. The Association (from their website) “represents professional managers of clubs, some 2,500 of whom manage approximately two thirds of NSW licensed clubs”. So they’re kind of a big deal in the industry.
They have a regular magazine which usually comes out monthly. Lots of industry talk and events, as you’d expect. Also lots of ads… and it’s telling that there’s almost always two or three full page, full colour ads for poker machines in the first half a dozen or so pages.
This afternoon I was looking through the August 2011 CMAA magazine. The proportion of pokie ads was even higher in this issue, as the 2011 Australasian Gaming Expo was held at Darling Harbour in August. So there was a Konami ad on the inside front cover, an Aisnworth ad on page 5, a MaxGaming ad on page 7, an Aristocrat ad on page 9… and then I reached page 11.
Page 11 was a full page, full colour ad for Bally Technologies. You might have heard of Bally; they were big players in the world of pinball before almost going broke and reinventing themselves as a poker machine manufacturer. Here’s the ad.
“Connecting With Your Players” is the headline, and whatever the ad is about, it must be good. See the pretty young thing playing the machine? With the perfect teeth and the hint of cleavage? She’s obviously having fun… check out that smile!
But look a little closer.
Yes, she’s wearing earphones. But she’s not listening to her iPod… she’s plugged into her poker machine.
The new series of Bally poker machine cabinets features an earphone jack to “deeply immerse and engage players in game play.” The reason? “…to take your EGM operation to a new level of profitability.”
This is such a simple innovation, such a small change… but the implications are horrendous. Poker machine addicts already talk about “the zone”, about falling into a semi-hypnotic state and shutting out the world when they play… can you imagine what it would be like for an addict to physically plug in to their machine as well? So that they hear NOTHING but the poker machine? This is not only reckless and predatory, it’s almost criminally negligent.
Some of you may think I’m over-reacting to this; I can assure you I’m not. If this tiny innovation becomes a standard feature on Australia’s poker machines, I can guarantee that the rate of poker machine addiction in this country will skyrocket. This is an obscene development, “experimental technology” at its best, and it must be stopped.
If not, then in a couple of year’s time the gaming rooms in our clubs, pubs and casinos will be silent. There may be ten, twenty or even a couple of hundred poker machines in the room, and each one occupied by a player… but there would be no sound. Everyone would be connected to their machine, shutting out the world completely. Imagine walking into that room, seeing the hundreds of pokie players, seeing the thousands of reels spinning… and hearing nothing at all.
This cannot be allowed to happen. The industry has been rolling out “innovations” like this for years, for no other reason than “profitability.” It has to stop.