Sunday, 29 January 2012

Pokies Cause Pain

For almost three years I have been maintaining a blog called Pokies Cause Pain. It anonymously publishes stories I am emailed about the reality of pokie gambling. Here's a story from May 2009.
I'm not a pokie addict but lived with one for 5 years and we eventually broke up a few weeks ago.

He tried so hard to stop but the addiction controlled him and he still battles daily. He has had to take sick leave, annual leave followed by more sick leave as he cant bring himself to get to work He cannot afford to go to the doc and get a sick certificate, so who knows what will happen when he eventually gets back to work.

He's with the gov, so has some security, but i think even that is going to reach its limit. He has no smokes, no petrol. no food, hardly any furniture and sits and watches an old tv all day, waiting for payday - so he can lose it again in a couple of days, then beat himself up, calling himelf a loser and so on until pay day comes around again.

He earns good money, is fun, intelligent; kind and i love him, but the pokie machine robs him of everything and he is its slave, and so very unhappy because of it. it has affected not just our relationship, but his work, his relationships at work, he has no friends apart from me and he is really hitting rock bottom.

He has tried counselling but it didnt last for long. His shame eats him and he lives in fear of exposure and in a permanent state of self hate and anxiety. It is so hard to watch a beautiful man self destruct, and this is what he is doing.

The pokies are a disgusting form of gov revenue, purposely designed to addict people and in doing so they ruin the lives of individuals and those associated with them.

Children are such innocent victims and they cannot walk away as can adults, as I have finally done. I can't have a relationship with an addiction anymore, and in all reality, that is what it is as it over rides everything. Fortunately, I never personalised the behaviours that otherwise would have been so hurtful, but how can children, who think in such black and white terms, not do so?
You can click here to have a read or make a comment.

This story is as sad today as it was almost two years ago. Still our leaders prioritise short term political self preservation or advancement above helping mates who have found themselves in trouble due to these dangerous machines.

If you want to contribute a story of your own go to the form on

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Gillard's Betrayal

On a Friday night last year I had finished dinner with a mate in the city and was on the tram home. I checked my email and the below was in my inbox:
Hi Paul,

I would have liked to organise to meet you in person but unfortunately that was not the way it has worked out.

I am a 31 year old gambling addict. I have recently attended rehab and joined the GA fellowship - For me this process has been great but too late. I was an intelligent, hard working and enthusiastic person, I was even a top student at law school before gambling possessed my life.

Whilst, I have stopped gambling the debt that follows me and the stupidity of my last few years have become to much to bear - I can not solve my pressing debt and would rather not face the consequences or rather face them in a way that maybe people will realise how bad this gambling problem is - not as a martyr but as a wake-up call. I only owe two hundred thousand which would probably have been my salary by now had I followed my other path - but there will be no miracle loan to bail me out and save me and too many people calling to demand payment.

On that note I think the Psychologists and Psychiatrists have it wrong in always advising family and friends not to bail out gamblers - it usually only leads us to a much worse place - rather a conditional bail out where the world is told of the persons addiction, all the debtors made aware and someone takes over their financial management makes a lot more sense than forcing 'us' to turn to sharks and other dangerous and very expensive forms of financing.

And now with the internet and the forthcoming explosion of online casino's and pokie options what a sad state we are in for.

Why am I writing to you - There are many suggestions I have for your organisation(s) and for gambling reform and anti-gambling help and marketing - I have been working on this for a long time and also on a essay detailing my life and ruin - it is no surprise that gambling has the highest suicide rate of all the addictions and I love that you have made it your life's work to bring some order and sanity to the gambling in this country. In any case I have made arrangements for my 'work' to be sent to you in due course and you are free to use it however you see fit.

I would have loved to dedicate my life to your anti-gambling endeavours but I wish you the best of luck in stopping people from becoming me.
As soon as I read this I called a mate who is a senior administrator in Victorian gambling rehabilitation. He counselled me that this was likely a suicide note. I emailed my phone number to "Author" and called another mate who was skilled at talking people through extreme crises. He made contact and talked "Author" through the weekend. On Monday, we put Author in touch with a financial counsellor employed in bringing back those who have lost everything. I wrote to Author for a few months afterwards and Author was still working things out.

The Prime Minister has not simply betrayed Andrew Wilkie. 

She has betrayed the people who began "playing" these machines and because of their dangerous nature developed a gambling addiction.

Ms Gillard, due to her selfish ambition for power, has betrayed Australians who still believe that helping our mates is what makes us Australians.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Castlemaine's Eloquent Message

The Victorian Gambling Commission's hearing of the pokie application of the Maryborough Highland Society application to force 65 pokies into Castlemaine is now over. At the end of the evidence, the EPIC group (Enough Pokies In Castlemaine) presented a video that eloquently describes this beautiful community and how pokies would change Castlemaine, for the worse. Here it is. Have a look.

EPIC's presentation of witnesses included a psychiatrist describing the damage suffered by the addicted. A leader of the Sudanese community told how his people suffered from gambling on these dangerous machines. A descendant of early settlers of Castlemaine tearfully described how his gambling had resulted in the loss of business and the break-up of his family. After a lifetime of damage, he admitted to just given up the pokies 14 weeks ago.

EPIC's plea to the Commission was both brief and powerful. It was sincere and real.

Compare this to Victorian gambling minster Michael O'Brien's reported statement about this weekend's meeting between the Prime Minister and Andrew Wilkie to seriously discuss the details of pokie reform in the light of 
  • 11 years of study by the Productivity Commission,
  • the Commission's evidence based solutions and
  • the findings of the Joint Senate Committee on Gambling:
Here's Mr O'Brien's reported words;
"... Victorian Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien yesterday labelled the meeting a "talkfest" and claimed Ms Gillard had no mandate for her reforms.
Describing them as "arrogant", he said they would conflict with the gaming policies of the Victorian government
"The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation has been created with a record budget to begin operation this year and we will apply a ban on ATMs in all gaming venues," he said.
"In addition, we've taken pre-emptive action to prohibit isolation audio technology on poker machines and ban cash devices which might be used to sidestep the ATM ban."

Mr O'Brien "Designed To Fail" policies do not just lack evidentiary support, his scheme of voluntary pre-commitment runs contrary to the results of four independent government sponsored studies. The 7.30 Report broadcast yesterday reported anger at Nova Scotia government's decision to keep pre-commitment voluntary. This is exactly what Minister O'Brien proposes. The broadcast concluded with a statement from a former problem gambler about voluntary pre-commitment (Mr O'Brien's scheme);
"The cards have been out for well over a year as well as the machines set up to use them. I haven't seen a gambler yet use one. They don't."
Furthermore, Mr O'Brien's spruicked foundation largely replicates the existing gambling advocate (whose recommendations he ignores), his spruicked ban on ATMs was rejected by the Productivity Commission as being ineffective and his spruicked prohibition of the audio technology relates to a pokie machine add-on that does not even exist in Victoria.

Victoria has the highest prevalence of problem gambling of any Australian state. Good people are pleading with government agencies to stop the flood of pokies.  Minister O'Brien and the Ballieu government's actions and words show a terrifying and continuing contempt of the interests of the people of Victoria with respect to the harm caused by pokie gambling.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Reality of Pokie Gambling Destruction

It is rare to experience the tragedy of people whose lives have been devastated by pokie gambling. It takes rare courage to a counsellor let alone the public. Watch this video where you will hear a brave woman, not even a gambler, confront James Strong AO Chairman of Woolworths Limited with her life that has been profoundly damaged by a family member addicted to pokies. At the end, she asks Mr Strong one question that he avoids answering.

The measured response and expression on Mr Strong's face is chilling in the light of the destruction caused by pokie gambling.

Here's a video shot today (12 January 2012) of Woolworths associated Sands at Carrum Downs website. This is a tangible demonstration of Woolworths opposition to reform. Amongst the promotions targeting children to come to this pokie pub, you will see the banner advertisement that conveys the false impression that the reforms require a "License To Punt".

If one goes to the advertised web site  there are more false and misleading statements and advocacy completely opposed to any reform. This is a campaign that Woolworths knowingly contributed to.

The reality of Woolworths opposition to reform is contrary to the impression Mr Strong conveyed to Woolworths' shareholders.

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Untold Tragedies of Pokie Gambling

Pokies reform will either be enacted by May this year or shelved for a generation. Regrettably, the debate has been about the process of implementing reform rather than the harm suffered by Australians as a result of their gambling on these dangerous machines.

Nearly one in five gamblers report that gambling has had an adverse effect on their lives. This is surprising for an entertainment product, whose purpose is to add to the enjoyment of people's lives (Productivity Commission Gambling Report @ page 4.23). This stat get much worse when one focuses on pokie gamblers. Pokie Gambling dimishes the quality of all of Australian lives if one person suffers. Yet, on a quantitative basis, Australian problem gambling has a higher prevalence than heroin use or hospitalisations resulting from traffic accidents (PC 5.30).

Despite these numbers, what has been missing from the discourse is the horrific stories of what it is to be in the grip of a pokie addiction. These stories are flicked aside to get to the process of reform implementation. These stories should be told regardless of a legislative solution preferred by the speaker. Despite known stats about the unwillingness of problem gamblers (whether they be moderate or addicts) to even answer a prevalence survey (PC 5.14), the past emphasis is to talk to former problem gamblers who may suffer from extreme shame or guilt.

Even those who are most cited by the pokie industry say that 60% of problem gamblers commit crime to support their addiction yet I have never seen a story where an addict (present or former) will talk to this.

We have heard that pokie gambling causes emotional distress, family break up, loss of jobs, crime and even suicide but no one has spoke to these tragedies in stories. Even family members or work mates have not had their stories told.

The inclination is to then ask these former or present problem gamblers about their preferred political solution. Really, that's not the point. The point is the loss of humanity caused or made worse in any way by pokie gambling.

If the story needs an ending, then it is the absence of action, not whether one solution is better than another. Even discourse about the justification for absence of action misses the point because there is no excuse.

Gary Banks (PC Chairman in his 30 March 2011 Address - "Evidence and social policy: the case of gambling") has the most effective last word;
“most of the harm minimisation measures that were introduced by governments in the decade between our inquiries had little evidence to support their efficacy, let alone cost effectiveness. Indeed, we found that virtually no machine design change with an a priori likelihood of effectiveness had been introduced in any state or territory.”
Despite the political rhetoric, the Senate Committee, the Productivity Commission's reports, the research and the evidence:  nothing has been done. Nothing. We don't even have a government policy nor even an opposition policy.