You might have noticed the topic of gambling in the news lately (it’s pretty hard not to see Tom Waterhouse’s face fake-smiling like a campaigning politician on your telly at the moment). Most of the coverage of the live betting stuff has been filled with people united on their annoyance/disgust at seeing a footy game plastered with the latest match odds. There’s certainly been an explosion over the last couple of years in the amount of gambling advertising we see, and you could be forgiven for thinking that online and live sports betting was the biggest chunk of gambling problems in Australia. But you’d be wrong.
The amount lost on the pokies in Australia makes online gambling look tiny. The main reason so much goes into the one arm bandits is because of the way they rope people in and get them hooked. Addiction to the poker machines is as real as an addiction to a drug, and many pokies addicts describe “the zone” that people go into when they play them. It’s like a focus on the machine that’s so strong that players are only semi-aware of what’s going on around them. A mate of mine experienced the apathy of players who were in “the zone” on the weekend.
Adam and a few mates had just arrived at a club and were in the pokies area when he saw a middle aged woman start to stumble. She then fell, arms by her side, hitting her head hard on the ground as nothing cushioned the blow.
Being first aid trained, Adam immediately went to her assistance and talked to her to see if would respond. She didn’t and was frothing at the mouth and shaking, suffering an epileptic fit. As Adam and his mates cleared the area of stools so the patient wouldn’t hurt herself, they were stunned that nobody else helped. Nobody playing a poker machine stopped playing to render assistance, a few turned their heads briefly to take a look.
But the really ugly part of this experience was when the club employee called an ambulance only to have the woman’s mother say “Don’t worry, this happens every time we come here.” The mother stopped playing the pokies long enough to address the gathered first aiders and to retrieve her daughter’s handbag, before trying for the next jackpot.
I’m no medical expert but I imagine that the flashing lights of the machines may be a trigger for the woman’s fits, and that it would probably be a good idea for her to stay away. The fact that this lady’s mother didn’t seem to give a rat’s about the size of the egg that had appeared on her daughter’s face has all the hallmarks of an addiction being a greater pull on her than the concern for her own flesh and blood.