Can Poker Machines Create Addicts?

As fun as the pokies and other gaming machines can be, like anything there is a point where the fun becomes a liability. Unfortunately, gambling addiction is all too real and it has substantial prominence in the world of gaming and it regulation. This was the topic for an article last year in ‘The Conversation’ that we thought would be worth revisiting.

The Australian government has instituted mandatory taxes and expenditures for the places that host pokies, including paying for programs that assists those coping with an addiction to gambling – so why not cut the problem off at the source rather than have the problem pay for the solution?

The fact is that all together Australians lose around $20 billion on gambling every year and about $11 billion of that is lost to the pokies in clubs and pubs around the country. If you look at a place like Las Vegas that is designed to entice and enchant gamblers and you can tell that there is an inherent temptation that is a part of gaming. Well there has been further evidence that the addictive qualities of gaming in the form of playing the pokies have become somewhat more prominent thanks in large part to the high number of pokie machines in the country.

The argument is that the very structure of the pokie machine is intentionally built to cultivate addiction. The features of the game are always being enhanced to make them more intense and consequently more addictive, targeted at stimulating the brain in a fashion that is similar to the reaction caused by cocaine. The machines seem to teach the brain to react to winning or even playing with a pleasure stimulus. Now you may think that because winning is randomized the reaction would be mitigate but this illusive sensation make it more enticing to the players. The question is should there be more control / regulation in the production of Poker Machines to ensure that the game play is not designed to be addictive?