Ka-Ching – pokie nation

I wanted to learn something about poker machines that I didn’t already know last night from Ka-Ching – Pokie Nation on ABC. I did.

Thanks to the Whitlams I already knew that pokies were evil and killed live music in this country but I wanted to know more about the science behind their design. Ka-Ching – Pokie Nation went into great detail. Had you ever considered that there’s a composer writing music for poker machine games? And he writes exclusively in major chords to make the music sound as positive as possible. Imagine being this guy. They used to call Rock’n’Roll the devils music… this guy writes songs to lose money to!

Ka-Ching – Pokie Nation also detailed some of the black magic used in the back end design of pokie games. Near misses, for example, create the illusion of almost winning in the minds of users and they are engineered to occur 12 times more regularly than would naturally occur. (‘one liberty bell… two liberty bells… doh!’) Manufacturers understand that it’s the anticipation of winning that makes the pokies so addictive, not the winning itself. This was something I did not properly understand.

Ka-Ching – Pokie Nation also references a 1956 experiment conducted by James Olds and Peter Milner in which a rat was fitted with a wire connected to the pleasure centre of it’s tiny brain. The rat was able to send a shock through the wire by activating a simple lever which he did over and over again to experience the rush. (The same rush, incidentally, that scientists claim users get playing poker machines). Things didn’t turn out to well for old Ratty. He quickly became so addicted to the sensation that he forgot to eat or drink and perished.

Poker machines account for $12Billion in Australia every year. When you actually think about that figure, it’s outrageous. Lots of people are getting fleeced. Actually, it’s more serious than that. People are having their lives ruined.

I loved Ka-Ching – pokie nation. If you get a chance, watch it on ABC iview (and stay away from poker machines).

Did you learn anything from Ka-Ching – pokie nation last night. What surprised you the most? Leave a comment below…


  1. Angelique

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