Illawarra kids are being seduced by the ‘’winning sounds’’ and ‘’flashing lights’’ of the pokies according to a world-first study out of Deakin University.
The researchers interviewed 45 children, aged six to 16, who regularly attended clubs equipped with poker machines throughout the region with their parents.
More than half the children wanted to try pokies when they were older, and despite not being allowed in gaming areas all were very familiar with the features of the machines.
Lead researcher and Deakin PhD student Amy Bestman said children overwhelmingly focused on the perceived positives of pokies – winning and fun – without understanding the risks.
She said during the interviews, winning was often described as a certainty. For example, a 14-year-old boy described pokies as being used by adults as a way to ‘’earn money’’, while a 10 year old stated they were used to ‘’give the family money’’.
And a 14-year-old girl, who attended a club fortnightly said: ‘’It’s a form of entertainment, it’s sort of a little bit of pleasure and a bit of adrenaline that sort of ‘what’s it going to be?’’.
Ms Bestman said: ‘’The harmful affects of gambling advertising are well known but this was the first study to look at the impact of gambling venues on children.
‘’Despite regulations that pokies should be separate from family dining and play areas, this study showed that children were being exposed by not only seeing the machines, but also hearing them from other areas.
‘’Unfortunately these machines only make loud noises and have flashing lights when people win, so children’s perception is that people are winning more than they are losing.’’
Some children did have strong negative reactions to pokies, with one 12-year-old girl stating: ‘’People go broke and then ask for money and then as soon as they get money they just go and spend it on the pokies … I think it’s stupid’’.
Turning down the volume on pokies – or ensuring they also made sounds when people lost – were among the report recommendations.
Researchers also recommended gaming rooms be located away from dining areas or club entrances. They also suggested school-based education about pokies, particularly in communities with a lot of clubs.
‘’The Illawarra was selected for the study because we know that a lot of clubs contain poker machines, and that the region records high losses on these machines,’’ Ms Bestman said.
In fact there are more clubs with poker machines (38) in the Wollongong local government area than any other LGA in NSW. In the 2015-16 financial year, gamblers at those clubs lost $143 million on pokies.
What children said about poker machines
“It’s like just a rectangle box and then you’ve got like probably a button and then the only one I can think of now is where three things rotate. And you’ve got different numbers; I think seven’s the best. And they’ve got different pictures and they’ve all got to line up”- male, 14 years, attended club monthly.
“They’ve got money in them. So you can win money from them’’- male, 8 years, attended club weekly.
‘’You’re trying to win. You never know if you could win or not. And you want to win! If you win you can go home to your children and say, ‘Oh, look what I won on the pokies. You might be able to do this when you’re older’.”- male, 10 years, attended club less than three times per year.
‘’It’s a form of entertainment, it’s sort of a little bit of pleasure and a bit of adrenaline that sort of ‘what’s it going to be?’.”- female, 14 years, attended club fortnightly.
“People go broke and then ask for money and then as soon as they get money they just go and spend it on the pokies … I think it’s stupid”- female, 12 years, attended club fortnightly.
“It’s not harming, it’s just mean because it takes your money and it’s not fair for you. But it is a bit fair because they buy equipment for you to keep you safe and to keep you comfortable and to keep you entertained in the clubs’’- male, 10 years, attended club less than three times per year.