Time to cut losses on pokies

TWELVE billion dollars wasted in nine years. Victorians are losing $69 a second, or nearly $6 million a day, on poker machines.

The time has arrived to cut our losses.

Today the Herald Sun begins a five-part INSIGHT investigation into the social and economic impact of poker machines.

We reveal how 156,000 Victorians have become problem poker machine gamblers.

And we expose how the biggest addicts of all – governments – are fattening their budgets on pokie taxes and weakly sanctioning sneaky new ways of raking in additional millions.

The brilliant masterminds of poker machines have literally devised the ultimate, foolproof money-making machines.

They simply CANNOT lose. All machines are programmed by computer to make certain of it.

And they are hungrier, louder, brighter and faster than ever.

Without debate, poker machine makers have cleverly but quietly used technology to create new ways of winning your money faster.

When machines were first legalised in Australia, they were cumbersome mechanical contraptions, with single-coin slots, only three reels and modest payouts: “One-armed bandits.”

Today they are hi-tech, cash-hungry, computer-driven machines that greedily:

SUCK up a $100 note in 1.5 seconds.

FEATURE up to 20 lines and accept up to $90 a spin.

TAKE between 10c and 13c of every $1 inserted.

OPERATE 24 hours a day, seven days a week in many venues.

Our investigation confirms Victoria is Australia’s biggest gambling state, with more than $2 billion a year lost on poker machines.

The social price is high, with 80 per cent of losses being in poorer areas. Household savings have slumped dramatically and businesses are suffering.

But poker machine taxes have risen nearly 700 per cent to almost $1 billion a year since 1992, accounting for 9.2 per cent of State Government revenue.

The Herald Sun believes Victorians are tired of lame excuses from successive governments with vested interests, and that there are simple and practical ways of at least curbing the problem.

We are NOT calling for a ban on machines. It’s much too late for that and compensation is unaffordable.

Law-abiding businesses have been established around them and thousands of Victorians have legitimate fun on pokies. That’s fine.

So what can sensibly be done?

We believe hundreds of millions can be kept in the pockets of Victorians by:

RESTRICTING note-fed machines to accepting a maximum of $10 or, more boldly, returning to coin-fed machines.

CUTTING the number of lines to be played with a single spin.

ENFORCING “cooling off” periods by making each active machine shut down every 15 or 30 minutes to give players a break.

SLOWING play by cutting the speed of each spin. With at least 10c lost for each $1 inserted, this will quickly add up.

REDUCING the maximum bet per spin Pengeluaran SGP .

INTRODUCING pre-set and enforceable spending limits. Problem gamblers spend much more than they can afford, and many don’t know how to stop.

ENSURING no more machines are introduced, despite aggressive lobbying for even more.

Thousands of players enjoy the pokies and shouldn’t be denied their fun. They win the occasional jackpot, though many are unaware this is simply a fraction of what previous players lost. Guaranteed!

Victoria has the chance to show courage and lead the nation. Premier Steve Bracks must be prepared to push the button and pay the price.

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