Robot Robbers Are All AroundMy dear sister, Consuela, only the other day made a remarkable statement. She said: “Robot robbers are all around us.”
Naturally I was thrown into a mild state of panic by this rolling alliteration, so I immediately asked her what she meant. Connie explained that she was talking of the poker machines that proliferate like the plague in every pub and club in our district, except, fortunately, for our surf life saving clubs. She explained that they were robots, as they are highly sophisticated, programmed, mind-bending machines of some artificial intelligence designed to rob you of your money. She even alarmingly suggested that they can talk to each other and follow you around the VIP gaming dens and lounges (for that is what they are laughingly called) from machine to machine, from club to pub, through fingerprint technology or, God forbid, facial recognition.
I am old enough to know that when they were first naively introduced, before the plague, they had a mechanical arm on the side to execute the theft and were consequently known as ‘one-armed bandits’. Now, of course, they have much simpler buttons, which you can press many times and lose far more at a faster rate. Locals now call them ‘slap machines’ and you can easily lose $1,000 an hour. Unfortunately it is rarely people with plenty of money who lose. It is the desperate, the poor, the depressed and those numerous people with mental disorders who get quickly seduced and mesmerised even before the grog takes over.
Consuela developed into a rage, as if I was to blame.
“Who doesn’t know people who have had their lives wrecked by these pernicious beasts, homes repossessed, families broken, children undernourished,” she screeched.
“Nowhere else in the world has a society let them become rampant – even the sensible Chinese corral them in Macao and the mad Americans in Las Vegas, but not stupid us.“We stick them on every street corner pub and into the supposed pillars of the community, the licensed clubs!”
I was aware that regulating poker machines, or preferably just selling them off as scrap, had surfaced again as a topical issue after the recent SMH reporting of the suicide of a much-loved family man after a pokie binge at Dee Why RSL. It was a heart- breaking story that revealed the telling statistic that the club in one year had poker machine gambling revenues of $43 million and had given just $1.9 million back to the local community.
I tried calming her down with a placid voice, asking the eternal question about this plague: “But why is it so?” She referred me to an excellent book on the subject she had just read by Sydney journo Drew Rooke called ‘One Last Spin – The Power and Peril of the Pokies’.
It was a Friday night when I had a thorough browse of it over a few schooners at my local club. Clearly the pokie plague was all about greed, executive salaries, corporate profit and lazy politicians scared of losing their jobs due to PR campaigns about gambling regulation destroying local communities and being ‘un-Australian’.
I could’ve choked on my beer.
I knew the entire state of WA, which I regularly visit, had no pokies except for at the casino, yet people seemed happy and kids still had their footy kits. No wonder they want to secede.
Hopefully we are waking up to this plague. It seems the Tasmanian Labor Party and the Greens’ policy platforms want them banned, and AFL clubs are realising they are a pox on health, like tobacco. There are now even some proud pokie-free clubs and pubs awake to the evil robot menace.
Connie eventually arrived at the club after a while and I bought her a nice Margaret River Chardonnay and some tickets in the meat raffle on the condition we didn’t talk about the stupid noisy things. Knowledge can be shocking.