Poker machines are a polarising subject – the revenue they bring in can benefit the community but they also cause problems for people who can’t stop gambling.
In every Australian state except Western Australia, patrons can access poker machines (or pokies) in pubs and clubs. For most, ‘having a punt’ is a fun part of a night out that only results in a few less (or more) dollars to go home with. Most gamblers understand that while the machines sometimes offer a jackpot, the odds of winning big are low.
The benefits of poker machines
Venues in Australia benefit a great deal from poker machines, bringing in profits of up to millions of dollars. This increased revenue can be a good thing – it means pubs and clubs are able to provide employment and can sponsor their local community organisations and events.
In Australia over 100,000 people have severe gambling addictions. Most are low income earners who live in disadvantaged areas. Problem gamblers often end up thousands of dollars in debt and can lose their homes and their families.
It is an ethical dilemma – how do you continue to promote a machine which the majority of the population have no problem with but which some people become addicted to?
Responsible Conduct of Gambling
All states have laws to govern the use of poker machines and protect gamblers from losing too much money. Venue managers are required to put up signs that cover:
• Information about the odds of winning
• The dangers of gambling
• Help available for problem gamblers
All pub, bar and club staff working at venues in NSW with pokies must also hold a valid RCG (Responsible Conduct of Gambling) Certificate. This enables workers to identify negative issues associated with gambling addictions. The course explains:
• The impact of problem gambling
• What responsible gambling is
• Duty of care that a venue must provide for its patrons
Holding this qualification gives hospitality staff the ability to encourage responsible gambling and point a patron towards help if they feel their gambling is out of control, minimising the impact of gambling addiction in Australia.
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