Addiction is only winner at the pokie machines. – Stuff

OPINION: It could be argued that I have the propensity to be addicted to anything. Alcohol, shopping, and collecting driftwood. All three have seen me troubled.
Certainly, the driftwood and kindling haven’t caused harm to me or others, but living in the city with no ability or inclination to build a campfire, driftwood has at times presented as an addiction, as opposed to a handy means of survival.
Last week I interviewed a young man in Australia, who has lost what he estimates to be half a million dollars since he started gambling on the pokies aged eighteen. He is now 31. I listened with wide eyes and mouth slightly agape as he told me his story of both why and how.
The idea of ‘losing’ money terrifies me. I get panicked when a five-dollar bill falls out of my pocket, and my experience of Las Vegas I always describe as "Hell with the disco lights on." If anyone ever mentions they want to travel to Vegas, I’m quick to throw in my opinion: "Don’t go to Vegas. It’s a money-sucking vice trap in a sandpit. Go to New Orleans. The partying is better. The food is better. The music is a thousand times better, and you won’t lose all your money."
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Gambling has never been my thing. I want something guaranteed for the money I chuck about. Be it booze or shoes or a pile of kindling in the back of my car, I want something tangible when I go all ‘addict’ on it.
Firm rule if ever I concede, and go with anyone to a casino for a laugh (I don’t find them particularly amusing. More scary and sad) I take $20, and when that $20 is gone, then I’m out. This essentially means I remain inside a casino for three minutes max.
I resent giving any money to the ‘house’, and as we all know ‘The House’ always wins. This explains their gauche recreations of Venice, Paris, and the Sphynx in the desert state of Nevada. Sure I’ll buy shoes one size too tight, just because they’re on sale, and subsequently never wear them, and I’ve probably, back in the day bought enough wine that I could have personally catered the booze for Brooklyn Beckham’s wedding, but gamble money away? That’s NOin capitals.
Then what is it about the pokies that’s causing the decimation of society, especially in New Zealand towns? The next question would have to be "why are we allowing this to happen?.”
It seems to me that addictive gambling is just as serious as addiction to drugs. It causes immense hardship, ruins relationships, and is responsible for a decent or indecent amount of crime. Would we allow people to go and sit on stools in lounges, put money in a slot, and have the machine spit out ‘points of meth’ or a couple of morphine tablets? I’m fairly sure there would be a significant outcry.
There will be some that argue that many folks can quite happily sit at the pokies once in a blue moon, and even enter with $20 and come out with $60, but then there are people who can snort coke, have one glass of wine, or puff on a pipe socially too. Those people amaze me.
Zac told me that he’d started going to the pokies just for fun with the boys, but when his life started to fall apart, with deaths in the family, a broken relationship, and memories of childhood trauma resurfacing, he found solace in sitting nightly at the pokies. Very quickly he was spending all his pay, borrowing money, and had his new girlfriend packing up and leaving.
His boss, who sounds like a decent bloke, realised what was happening, and would hold on to Zac’s money, and make sure his bills were paid before releasing funds to him. The plan worked briefly until Zac just quit and moved on to somewhere where the new boss had no idea. Eventually, when penniless and at rock bottom, despite being a top-qualified builder, Zac went to rehab. It helped. He was in with drug addicts, alcoholics, and sex addicts. He learned that the problem was not only quite possibly genetic, but also a ‘him’ problem. Zac is in a fairly stable recovery with a few minor relapses. However, what I found most interesting about Zac’s story, is that it had nothing to do with money.
What? Zac told me that money wasn’t the driver. It was the escape from his life and his head. It was the excitement, and the time he got to be concentrating only on the lights and the sound and the thrills. He went on to tell me that if pokies opened up where there was no money involved he would still go for all those reasons. He’d got to escape his head and his troubles. I questioned him again and again about the money factor, but for him, it was just all about escape.
Half a million dollars later Zac is still taking it a day at a time and says cash is his enemy, so he avoids it. It got me thinking. Would it not perhaps be better to have parlours where people in need of escape, and trauma could go, sit in booths and on high stools if need be, and talk for two hours to therapists or recovered addicts? Should our neighbourhoods in towns all over New Zealand not be better served with those places?
I’d almost guarantee the necessity to disperse the winnings from the pokies to charities might be far less necessary if it was? Is there not a glaring irony that much of the pokies’ profit supposedly goes back into the community to help the needy?
Chicken? Egg? Chicken? Egg? Anyone?
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