I BECAME a pokies addict. I wasn’t born one although I was born with the predisposition to become one. How?

Like nearly every other human being, I have pleasure centres in my brain that can be triggered by stimuli from outside the body. The people who design and manufacture the pokies know all about this response and have used medical experts to help them fashion visual and auditory stimuli that provoke these pleasure centres into releasing endorphins and whatever else it is that makes you feel high when you play them … very high.

It is such a quaint word, pokies, it suggests maybe a little game one might play when under the blanket with a loved one or maybe even trading friendly sarcastic blows with a friend but no, it’s the complete antithesis of such friendly – mostly wholesome activities – like these. However, It is the easiest reference term to use as long as you don’t drift off into the land of, “But what would the pensioners do for recreation every fortnight.”

Including myself, there are 7 of my family members who have had a pokies addiction at some point in their life (including immediate family members) and 7 who have come out the other side. And dare I say, 7 who, if they were forced to sit in front of one, would probably succumb to it again.

This is so vexing to me as a phenomenon.

It became less vexing to me as I proceeded through my abstinence because i learnt what it was that was so attractive and addictive to me. It was simply my fault. But then I learned that the machines were designed to send me off with the fairies and throw my money into the air.

I didn’t see the forest for the trees.

I was in their spell as technology got better and the progression from the one-armed bandits to button spin to card machines in pubs (now they were real poker machines. You actually played poker on them) to the probably most awful point where you could feed notes into the machines.

When those note feeders were introduced, I noticed my length of stay at these ‘Gaming LOUNGES’ was reduced pretty much by about 50-70%. There was no mucking about with getting these planting pots full of gold coins and having to feed them through. Bingo Bango, credits on machine ready to start ticking down to zero. In the zone at a $50 note every 5-10 minutes or so is a sobre reminder of having a problem, but only for a second and then la la la lala.

Over time i’ve either not had the capacity or the willingness to deal with ‘boning’ up on facts about how these machines exactly work and all the other figures. I am also ‘dated’ as it’s been about 6 years since I’ve played them and don’t know what all the new tricks are. However I have the lived experience and a memory of being there. I have a fair idea about exactly how they look in an environment and all I see are souls becoming lost – sitting and playing and actually thinking that their personal pokie’s god is with them this time.

I just remembered about how I got to a point where i would look around to see that no one was watching and say quietly a number of times the phrase,”free spins” so that it would come up (Free spins meant the opportunity to get a number of free spins where any prizes that came up were multiplied by your investment and you were meant to win heaps bigger prizes.) What a deluded fool I was. There was also the stroking of the machines, holding my breath until the reels had stopped, actual praying to God and finally, reasoning with the machine. What a deluded fool I was. But….

Now that I am delivered from them, I can see exactly how insidious and contagious they are. I hate them with a hate that I sometimes even have to initiate despite my normal opposition to hatred as a state of being. I hate them to a point where I start thinking more deeply about it and who the actual culprits are. It was Len Ainsworth (Aristocrat gaming) who talked about “building a better mousetrap”: The point I make is that of all the greedy people in this industry, it is the purchasers and licensees and governments that ‘place’ that mousetrap that gave it fue l- and continue to fuel it. The by-product being people’s lives.

The only people who are blissfully ignorant of this filthy profiteering are the people who are putting about half of all the money into the pokies and that is the addicts themselves – the other half just figure it’s a fair enough chance and why shouldn’t the government profit from it. The addicts however, for a time, live in a space where the things of the world and the heart do not matter. Sad but true.

I always hope that someone with the right pen would read something I write and be affected to put down a signature that will start the cull but I don’t know how to appeal to them anymore except to stand beside people who have the skills to do just that – appeal to the lawmakers.

When these machines have retreated to the Casinos we will be actually left with a gift. The gift being the memory of how we started to decay our communities but had enough sense to stop it. It could inspire a new way of thinking for Tassie in many ways. Justice, leadership, self-reliance and compassion

There are many of us who know that NOW is the time that this will happen. Sometimes it appeared to be all in vain but the crescendo has started and the physically gifted lady has started to sing.

This Tassie election is it.

Let’s go!

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

• All about Stephen’s addiction: HERE: The Pokies Horror

*Stephen Menadue was addicted to the pokies for over 30 years. “I am now free of them. I am driven to help get rid of these things for those who are still under their spell and especially for those who never go near a machine. This should not be a political argument.”