According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an estimated 5% of pokie fans can be categorized as problem gamblers. The definition of a problem gambler is rather murky, and depends on a person’s attitude and behavior toward poker machines as well as the professional assessment of an individual’s gambling habits by a qualified addiction specialist or other medical professional.
Professionals in the field of addiction are quick to point out that slot machine and video poker machine play is by far the most addictive of any game in the casino. Many problem gamblers addicted to pokies get a similar “rush” from gambling that heroin or cocaine addicts get from using their drug of choice. Pokies offer instant gratification, and (unlike addictive drugs) occasionally lead to positive financial earnings.
The brain can’t tell the difference between the adrenaline rush provided by pokies and the rush provided by a recreational drug. The use of flashing lights, 3D video, and music stimulates most of your body’s senses and adds to the excitement level of the standard poker machines. Combine that with the enhanced pace of pokie play and it is no surprise that poker machines can be as addictive as illegal narcotics. Poker machines are designed to be seductive, and advertising for pokies is evidence enough of casino operator’s desires to get people to sit at poker machines for hours, plugging quarters and dollar bills into the machine to get that same adrenaline rush time after time.
This isn’t to say that all poker machine play is bad. In fact, according to the government’s own figures, at least 9 out of 10 pokie players don’t match the description of a pokie addict at all.
So what is a pokie addict to do? Poker machine play helps some people “zone out,” ignoring the problems in their everyday lives. It is impossible for a true poker machine addict to simply push away from the pokie and go back to their normal life. That’s why it is necessary for a problem gambler to get some form of professional help, either from a 12-step group or a medical professional trained to assist gambling addicts in their recovery.
Are You a Problem Gambler?
If you think your poker machine hobby is becoming a problem, the answers to the following “Yes or No” questions can help you decide if you need to seek help for problem gambling. If you answer “Yes” to seven or more of these questions, it may be time to seek professional help to deal with your pokie habit.
1. Have you ever taken off from work or school to play pokies?
2. Has your poker machine playing ever caused domestic trouble?
3. Does your gambling hobby affect your reputation in your community?
4. Does your time spent playing poker machines make you feel guilty?
5. Have you ever played pokies in order to win money you can use to pay debts or bills, especially those caused by your gambling?
6. Does your time at the pokies make you less energetic or affect your work ethic?
7. When you lose money on poker machines, do you ever feel like you have to get back to the casino as soon as possible to win back the money you lost?
8. When you win money playing poker machines, do you get an intense desire to continue playing in hopes of winning more?
9. Do you play the poker machines until your last dollar is spent?
10. Have you ever borrowed money to play pokies?
11. Have you ever sold or pawned your possessions to get money to play slots?
12. Do you set aside part of your income for poker machine money? In other words, do you budget funds for your poker machine play?
13. Has your time at the pokies ever affected you or your family’s welfare?
14. Have you ever played slot machines longer than you planned to?
15. Do you use your time at the slot machine banks to get away from stress, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom?
16. Have you ever committed or even considered committing a crime to finance your pokie play?
17. Do you have trouble sleeping because of thinking about playing the pokies?
18. When you have an argument or other frustrating event, do you get an urge to play a slot machine or pokie to escape your problems?
19. Do you use slot play to celebrate happy time or fortunate events?
20. Have losses at poker machines ever led you to consider harming or killing yourself?
There are other ways to determine if you have an addiction to the pokies. If you are unable to control the amount of money you spend on poker machines or other games of chance, you probably have an addiction to gambling. Since some pokies are designed to cost as much as $500 per pull of the lever, so-called “high roller slots,” a person can lose thousands of dollars in just a few minutes of pokie play.
Other warning signs of gambling addiction:
- A strong compulsion to risk money that the gambler doesn’t actually have.
- Using money set aside in the budget to pay rent or make a mortgage payment.
- Increasing financial problems due to time spent playing pokies.
- Borrowing against home equity or other investments just to play poker machines.
- Irrational beliefs that a gambler can find a winning pattern to beat the mathematical odds offered by a poker machine.
Determining if you are a problem gambler is serious business, so try to ask yourself each question seriously and answer to the best of your ability. Remember that seven or more “Yes” answers could mean you have a gambling addiction and require attendance at Gamblers Anonymous meetings or intervention by a medical professional. Any of the 5 warning signs of gambling addiction are serious enough to warrant a look into your gambling habit. Many have recovered from problem gambling to lead normal lives; there is hope for people addicted to problem gambling and pokie addiction.