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Mindless…..a near miss on “the Pokies”

April 22, 2011

A Mindless form of gambling BANNED  in pubs and clubs in Western Australia

A Royal Commission into gambling in Western Australia in the 70’s found that

…poker machine playing is a mindless, repetitive and insidious form of gambling which has many undesirable features. It requires no thought, no skill or social contact. The odds are never about winning….  Historically poker machines have been banned from Western Australia and we consider that, in the public interest, they should stay banned.

File:Casino slots.jpgOutside the Casino, in pubs and clubs , suburbs and towns in Western Australia, you will not find poker machines. We are seen today as a “pristine State”.

The odds are never about winning

In the long run, we are all going to lose lots of money playing these games of chance.

In the state of Victorian, $2.56 billion was lost on poker machines last financial year – more than $7 million a day. This figure excludes the amount lost at Crown Casino’s 2500 machines. In January and February of this year hotels and clubs in Queensland collected $294 million, New South Wales collects $1.8 billion a year. Western Australia has consistently had the country’s lowest level of gambling losses per adult. In our state, gaming taxes contribute only about 6 per cent of government revenue as opposed to Victoria’s 18.4% in 2006. The Eastern State Governments of Australia are financially dependent on their huge gambling revenue.

Regulation of Poker Machines in Australia demanded by Independents: re problem gamblers

We currently have a minority government in Australia. To  secure support for certain legislation going through Parliament at the moment, two Independent Members of Parliament are demanding that the government should do something about “the pokies” and their dire effect particularly on low income people. A Productivity Commission report found 40 per cent of poker machine revenue came from problem gamblers.

The regulation required by one Parliamentary member is a one dollar bet limit on all poker machines nationally and a $120 an hour loss limit.

The “near miss”.

My gambling is limited to the occasional “Scratchie”, but I seldom win. If I have got two matches of $10 out of three possible matches what is it about the “near miss” (two out of three) that makes me keep going at this dumb game? I feel that I might just get the three matches next time. It was a close call. Why do I keep going even if I know that the odds are stacked against me?

 It is all in the brain: the “near miss” is inevitable when you are learning

The “near miss” provides us with an unwelcome side effect of a remarkable process in our brain.

When we are learning something new that takes skill and persistence we are rewarded as we slowly get better at it…..

  • the nail gets hammered in straighter,
  •  the computer program seems easier and you can find some of the things you wrote yesterday,
  •  perhaps  you remember how to mix green in your paint palette even if it doesn’t quite match, etc.

It feels good to be improving!

“Near misses” keep you motivated! They are approximations towards a goal.

The brain has a mechanism that registers progress.  We must continue to be motivated by the “close call ‘ so that we give whatever we are learning another go.

So the brain rewards us chemically and we feel good.

Games of chance and the “near miss”

But there is no skill in games of chance and we are cruelly misled. The near miss on the poker machine (two out of three?) produces the same chemical reward and we feel good. Our remarkable brain process which maintains motivation can merely fill the coffers of club owners or government and we end up losing our hard-earned money.

Traffic lights:  “a near miss”

Last year I blogged about waiting for traffic lights to change to green. My intention was to continue driving straight on from the inside lane but my brain tricked me into starting to move the car forward slightly when it detected the green filter arrow (to turn right). This is an example of my brain detecting an approximation (a “near miss” ) in a very different context. Next time you are waiting at the traffic lights watch other drivers edge forward as their brains detect the “near miss’!


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2011 3:29 am

    big like! – thanks .

  2. May 22, 2011 10:04 pm

    What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

  3. May 25, 2011 2:35 am

    Very useful, thank you.

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