Screen, TV

'Like opium dens': pokies' toll laid bare in ABC's 'Ka-Ching: Pokies Nation'

| |

Ka-Ching: Pokies Nation, airs tonight on ABC TV at 9.29. Its producer Mitzi Goldman says the program shows that addiction pokies is less the responsibility of the individual gambler and more about industry and government policies. Myriam Robin reports.

Carolyn Hirsh, the whip in Joan Kirner’s Victorian Labor government, voted to pass legislation allowing poker machines in Victoria. A few years later, she was desperately addicted to the machines.
Hirsh’s problem began when she saw a hotel offering free breakfast. She saw rows of pokies inside, and figured she’d see what the fuss was about. She put in a bit of money. Her addiction slowly grew from there, she told the producers of Ka-Ching: Pokies Nation, which airs tonight on the ABC.
Some time later, her daughter committed suicide. Hirsh discovered her daugher’s body — the image of it haunted her. But she found that the pokies soothed and comforted. “It was a place where you could get lost in that world where nothing else mattered. Like a hypnotism,” she said.
“It is solitary. Like what I’ve read of opium dens, people lying on little mats smoking opium. Alone, but being soothed and comforted.”
Hirsh lost thousands to the pokies. Her grief is palpable on screen. “I’ve hurt my family so much,” she said.
Her story is not unique. Australia has more poker machines per head of population than anywhere else in the world, and the toll on individuals, families and communities is widely known. In 2010, in a bid to retain power, the Gillard Labor government reached a deal with independent Andrew Wilkie to introduce a number of measures aimed to curb poker machine addiction by giving addicts the tools to control their spending. The policy awakened a sleeping giant, as the gaming lobby brought its significant resources to bear opposing the measures, promising robust anti-government campaigns in marginal seats should they go ahead. The push was unsuccessful: the Gillard Government’s support for Wilkie’s measures was dropped as soon as they no longer needed his parliamentary vote.
Read the full story on Crikey

2 responses to “'Like opium dens': pokies' toll laid bare in ABC's 'Ka-Ching: Pokies Nation'

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *