Poker Machines Are for Losers

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Gaming machines. Whatever you call them, these machines are for losers. Just to be clear, I’m not using ‘losers’ in the pejorative sense. That is “a misfit, especially someone who has never or seldom been successful at a job, personal relationship, etc.” No, I don’t mean that at all (although, there are some poker machine players who would fit into that category). No, I mean that if you play these machines, you are a literal loser. A loser of money.

Poker machines; Online Pokies; Slot machines; The slots.

Because one thing that I can nigh on guarantee you, is that you will lose if you play the pokies. You see, the humble poker machine has one purpose in life — to take your money. Not only will it take your money, given enough time it will take your car. It will take your house.

You may even lose your job because of it. And when things really hit rock bottom, you may just lose your wife and kids. This machine is a money-gobbling monster. It only has one purpose — to rob you blind. Sure, I get it.

These machines are not people. They have no thoughts or desires whatsoever. They’re just a box made of plastic, glass, and metal. But ultimately, they’ve been designed by people to trick you into giving them your money. I’m not a gambler — I’m an investor.

Some people might say that there isn’t much of a difference, but I beg to differ. I invest in an ETF (an exchange traded fund) called VAS — Vanguard Australian Shares Index ETF. VAS is made up of the top 300 ASX companies.

18th on the list is a company called Aristocrat Leisure. What do they do? They’re one of the biggest manufacturers of gaming machines in the world. If you play the pokies and lose (which I assume most players do), then you’re directly funding my retirement.

Now I don’t like profiting from people’s misfortune, but it’s no secret that these machines are designed to rob you. According to their website, Aristocrat’s motto is, “Bringing joy to life through the power of play”. I think that’s a bit of a misleading statement.

I personally don’t think they’re bringing much joy to the thousands of problem gamblers who have lost literally everything thanks to these machines. Yes, I know, we could argue about personal responsibility, but to be fair, poker machines have been designed to keep people playing. They use psychological tricks to make you think that you’re about to win, or they disguise losses as wins.

With their flashing lights and their “ding, ding, dings”, they’re a machine that has been built with a single function in mind — to take your money in any legal way that it can. But despite all of this, I don’t really blame Aristocrat. What they’re doing is completely legal, and let’s face it, they’re just a company after all with shareholders to appease.

I don’t even blame the machines to be honest. Yeah, they’ve been designed to trick you, but you always have the option to not walk into the local pub or club. But unfortunately, these machines are everywhere!

In my home state of Queensland, there are almost 50,000 machines throughout the state’s clubs, pubs, and casinos. You can bet up to $5 per spin in clubs and hotels with no limits in casinos. The Minimum RTP value (that is, the Return to Player value) is 85–92%. That means if you bet $100, on average, you’ll only get back $85.

The longer you play, the more you’re destined to lose. Queensland is going through a bit of a pokies epidemic at the moment. Queenslanders have been losing $4426 a minute in pubs and clubs this year. There’s really only one way to stop this. That is, to change the laws.

If we allow all clubs and pubs to have poker machines, we’re pretty much allowing problem gambling. The question we have to ask ourselves, “Is this what we want as a society?”. Do we want people to lose everything under the guise of “having a good time”? I don’t think so. I’ve seen enough people in my own life who have lost everything thanks to the pokies.

I work with a guy who can’t stop and he’s destroying his life because of it. Here’s a few statistics. 20% of the world’s gaming machines are in Australia, and Australia only accounts for 0.3% of the world’s population. 94% of pokies are found in neighbourhood pubs and clubs.

20% of suicides reported at Victoria’s Alfred Hospital are related to a pokies addiction. 4 in 5 areas with the biggest losses are Sydney’s most disadvantaged suburbs. But the question remains… Why? Why do we allow this? I’ll tell you why.

Because of this statistic. $4 billion is collected every year from taxes on pokies. This represents around 5% of state revenue.

So thanks to states getting a guaranteed revenue stream, they’re willing to turn a blind eye to the scourge that is problem gambling. Western Australia is the only state that doesn’t allow gaming machines in clubs and pubs. In their 1974 Royal Commission into Gambling, they stated, “…poker machine playing is a mindless, repetitive and insidious form of gambling which has many undesirable features. It requires no thought, no skill or social contact. The odds are never about winning.

Watching people playing the machines over long periods of time, the impressionistic evidence at least is that they are addictive to many people. Historically poker machines have been banned from Western Australia and we consider that, in the public interest, they should stay banned.” If you play the pokies and you’re addicted, I’m afraid the only person who can help you is yourself. The laws aren’t going to change anytime soon, because ironically, state governments that allow poker machines, are too addicted to the revenue that these machines bring in. Imagine, kind gambler, if instead of spending all of your money on poker machines destroying your life in the process, you instead invested in an ETF like VAS. I can guarantee you that you would have a lot more to show for it, and you wouldn’t have to wile your life away in a dark and smelly club. Pokies hurt people.

They’re not fun. They’re not entertaining. They’re a bane of your existence. If you play them, you’ve got to stop.

You’ve got to admit that there’s no chance that you’ll get your money back, so stop chasing those losses. In conclusion, poker machines are for losers.