A punter who has spent the last 20 years gambling on the pokies wants to dispel the negative attitude surrounding it.
Over the years, people have often asked me how much money I’ve lost gambling, and I don’t have an answer for them. Why? Because it’s the wrong question to ask. Because it doesn’t matter.
If you want to better understand the “problem,” the question should be: why?
For that, I have an answer. Personally, I’ve done it to pull those I love “out of the shit.” My daughter needed help and that was the only way I could help. So I did, and I don’t regret it. The other reason is to see my other family, those I see when I head to the club. They know my name, as I know theirs. Even in places I’ve never been to before, the feeling remains the same. It feels familiar.
I no longer smoke, and barely touch the drink, so I see no harm in it. It seems comparatively insignificant. It’s not life threatening. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it, and when the time comes, I’ll move on. It’s an addiction, but it’s a tolerable addiction. It’s like coffee. People can live without it, but the mornings seem more tolerable with coffee in them.
What I feel is what the anti-gambling mob miss. They miss the context, all they see are the results. They can paint the walls with warnings if they like, but it’s misdirected. I’ve seen friends dragged from pokie rooms, or with fingers pointed at them, their family saying “but we love you” through gritted teeth. From our standpoint, where were they in the first place? I know that sounds selfish and unreasonable, for everyone is busy with their lives…but so are we – we do it to keep busy. Going somewhere where we’re asked, “How you going Joe?”, instead of waiting on a phone that doesn’t ring…it’s not even a decision.
What would you choose?
There’s another point I’d like to dispel – the general myth of the problem gambler, the powerless cretin, squandering last dollars, flushed under the 3am smoky neon reflection of the pokie. I always spend within my means and frankly, when I win, it’s good; when I don’t it’s not. It’s the gamblers yin and yang. When you win, you think you could have won more, and when you lose, you learn from the loss. It’s an imperfect pursuit, but as is life. The generalisation that we line the footpaths until the club opens and leave when they are deserted is, for the most part, a fallacy. I’ve done it, but it’s not a regular occurrence. I’ve seen people pour money into pokie machines. If you focus solely on the facts, it’s bad, and people have asked me, “why don’t you stop them?”
The short answer is, we wouldn’t.
Because we wouldn’t expect them to stop us.
We all have our reasons. I wouldn’t ask Geoff to stop, because we know he recently lost his wife, nor would I ask Sammy Harris, because he’s dealing with cancer. And for that, what could we say? All we can do is apologise for the situation which would send them into the doldrums, or we can have a laugh instead.
It’s a place to escape. A sanctuary. Time spins idly by, which can be a blessing. Others judge. We don’t. If the government wants to know why problem gambling is a problem, it’s because they’re treating it like a curable disease; there is no cure, because, for many of us, it’s already a cure. It’s an antidote for life.
If there’s a response to this article, I expect that I’ve heard it before. I’m aware of the socio-political aspect where the government lines its own pockets, and the coffee and nuts are there to keep me there longer, and I know the arguments put forward in that song…
For many of us, we’re in situations that can be resolved; for some, we’ve replaced what cannot be. But, for all of us, it keeps us going. We’re not asking you to walk in our shoes, or to condescendingly empathise, but, listen before you talk.