sneaky bastards file: bally technologies

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.


6 Responses

  1. Vicki says:

    That’s… horrifying. It sounds like the plot of some pretentious sci-fi movie, like The Matrix. But it’s actually happening. How depressing. 🙁

  2. Alex says:

    Hi, interesting you point out the connection b/w Bally and their previous experience in making arcade cabinets.

    The NEO GEO cabinet was released by Japanese video game company SNK in 1990. It a headphone slot, as well as a memory card slot for people to save games etc.

    As long as the EGM industry stays *looks at watch* 21 years behind the video game industry, younger consumers will not be particularly inspired by or attracted to this kind of innovation.

    Look instead into why prize redemption machines take up a majority of floor space in venues like (Melbourne’s) Northland Timezone. That shit’s insidious, because it really is gambling-for-kids.

  3. Peter B says:

    interesting that there are no trials demanded of this new technology and no approval process. It’s why we have the fastest, hungriest EGM’s in the world.

    BTW I don’t think the venues will be silent as they will want to lure all the non players to don the headphones and empty their wallets!

  4. Chris Hosking says:

    Rage against the MACHINES.

  5. Dramfire says:

    Totally agree. This ‘innovation’ is another example of using research into poker machine addiction against the vulnerable. Tom is not overstating the longer term impact of such technology. The intent of this ’innovation’ is shut out the world from the player, which in turn ferments the addiction. I’d be interested to know if the earpieces shut out ambient noise.
    Years ago, the CMAA called itself the Club Managers’ Institute of Australia. It’s frightening to think about their curriculum.

  6. chuck says:

    Really??? A casino full of quiet machines being played by hypnotized players? No casino in their right mind would promote this absolutely BORING casino atmosphere.

    As machines are increasing connected to networks – the earphones allow one person to listen to their football game while the next person listens to rock music.

    Oh – wait a minute. I didn’t know Aussies were so gullible to be tricked into losing their fortunes by a pair of cheap ear plugs. Probably shouldn’t let them have iPods, phones or chewing gum, either.

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