Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation is one of the most eye opening and hard hitting documentaries ever to cover the world of pokies and slot machines. It exposes the truth about the insidious nature of the industry and and shows us how the machines themselves are rigged and designed (from the ground up) to cause addiction.

stop the pokies con - the pokies play you

(see this article from a few weeks ago where we covered the documentary in detail – well we covered as much as we could having not seen it. – hence this new post which summarises the actual content and highlights the biggest issues)

The Problem However…

And in a manner that reflects the corruption of the gambling industry itself, the rights to the video are now owned by the ABC who of course refuse to allow it to be shared publicly – unless they allow it of course.  – You see, When ad man Neil Lawrence created this documentary he did so with the intention of sharing this with as wide an audience as possible. Sadly Neil died on a surfing holiday just days before the documentary aired (see this News.com.au story which covers it extremely well)

But We Have a Solution

Today I want to remedy this harsh injustice (and indirectly tell the ABC to go and fuck themselves) by sharing with you my own summary and accompanying infographic that summarises the main points contained within Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation.

Once published, this summary and visual representation of the truth will not only provide the general public with total unencumbered access to the information, it will be made readily available to download, share and distribute completely free or charge – and in fact I will be sending a copy to our friends at the Alliance for Gambling Reform and asking that they  too spread the word that the shackles of corruption, sorry I mean the ABC copyright issue (I always get them confused LOL) have been broken and the information now freely available to all and sundry.

The Documentary in Question:

ka-ching pokie nation logo

The Pokies. They’re rigged, they’re addictive and they’re everywhere. They’ve got almost half a million Australians hooked – and that’s just what they’re designed to do.

Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation is a film that has the unique power to shift hearts and minds and can provide the catalyst needed to insight action and motivate change. I think the following quote speaks volumes for the power of the message and the importance that it is shared with as wide an audience as possible:

“I have been campaigning for 20 years about the damaging impact of pokies. I thought I understood them until I saw Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation. It explained the pokies in ways that stunned me and renewed my commitment to fight their insidious addiction.” – Tim Costello, CEO at World Vision

Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation – The Truth Exposed 

The Summary and Resources (Supporting articles and links) that provide the irrefutable evidence of the insidious nature of pokies and the fact they are designed for no other reason than to cause addiction and make as much profit as possible.

When you Play The Pokies Expect to Lose.

  • Pokies are programmed so that in the end the machine will win. Nothing you do changes that
  • Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income. They are designed to make profit for others
  • Like other forms of Entertainment, you pay to play the pokies
  • The More you play, the more you pay.
  • The Pokie is ALWAYS the winner.

the pokies play you - how pokies work

Poker machines are essentially addiction machines that have been developed over a long period of time to be as attractive to their users as drugs are to theirs.

Source: https://www.problemgambling.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/9448/pokies-know-the-facts.pdf

1st Piece of Supporting Evidence

Addiction by Design by Natasha Dow Schull

Addiction by Design by Natasha Dow Schull 1

Drawing on fifteen years of field research in Las Vegas, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll shows how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone,” in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away. Once in the zone, gambling addicts play not to win but simply to keep playing, for as long as possible–even at the cost of physical and economic exhaustion. In continuous machine play, gamblers seek to lose themselves while the gambling industry seeks profit. Schüll describes the strategic calculations behind game algorithms and machine ergonomics, casino architecture and “ambience management,” player tracking and cash access systems–all designed to meet the market’s desire for maximum “time on device.”

Source: http://www.natashadowschull.org/

Data Points to Highlight:

  • mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state – I CALL THIS ZOMBIE-TAINMENT (draw players like zombies)
  • strategic calculations behind game algorithms and machine ergonomics –Basically this is saying how pokies/slot machines are all designed to encourage longer play and therefore increase the likelihood of big losses and addiction
  • casino architecture and “ambience management,” – The absence of windows and clocks provide players with no sense of time and therefore prevents them thinking about the worries of life and the ‘real world’ around them.
  • Pokie addicts sit alone with their machine, their own little world that is soothed and comforted by positive sounds and familiar tunes – not unlike an Opium Den
  • Once in the zone, gambling addicts play not to win but simply to keep playing, for as long as possible–even at the cost of physical and economic exhaustion – IMPORTANT
  • The above data point is one of the most important that needs to be highlighted because it draws a direct conclusion to the next data point and resource:

2nd Piece of Supporting Evidence

gambling addicts are like rats in an experiment


In a fundamental discovery made in 1954, researchers James Olds and Peter Milner found that low-voltage electrical stimulation of certain regions of the brain of the rat acted as a reward in teaching the animals to run mazes and solve problems. It seemed that stimulation of those parts of the brain gave the animals pleasure, and in later work humans reported pleasurable sensations from such stimulation. When rats were tested in Skinner boxes where they could stimulate the reward system by pressing a lever, the rats pressed for hours and ignored food, drink and rest – effectively pressing the button until they died from exhaustion.

We effectively discovered that stimulating a certain part of the brain could override the will to live

Research in the next two decades established that dopamine is one of the main chemicals aiding neural signaling in these regions, and dopamine was suggested to be the brain’s “pleasure chemical” – and the main factor in causing (or creating as is the case with pokies) addiction.


Data Points to highlight are bolded above – and again the important aspect here is to make the comparison between human pressing the play button on pokies and the rat in this experiment obvious and hard to miss

3rd Piece of Supporting Evidence

classical conditioning and pavlovs dog


Ivan Pavlov was a psychologist who used the reward system to study classical conditioning. Pavlov used the reward system by rewarding dogs with food after they had heard a bell or another stimulus. Pavlov was rewarding the dogs so that the dogs associated food, the reward, with the bell, the stimulus.


Data Points to Highlight:

  • Classical Conditioning is the same basis on which pokie machines emit sound and light – a visual and auditory reaction designed to disguise losses as wins and provide the player with nothing but positive reassurance and continuous distraction from the real world and the problems associated with it.
  • Music is used like misdirection with some of the more common methods including
  • No Losing Sounds. The last thing the club or casino wants to do is reinforce the fact the player just lost. No, a loss is given a neutral sound or none at all.
  • Losses disguised as wins. Even when the player wins less than they wagered, the machine will make noise and flash positive lights at the player so they get the impression they won when in actual fact they have lost money on that exchange.
  • Continuous music (themed according to the game) plays so as to keep the player focused on the game and in the moment – heaven forbid they should think about life outside the ‘pokie zone’
  • Players are like Pavlov’s Dog – salivating at the sound of other people’s features and bonus wins – subconsciously saying they must surely be next (they associate the sound with a win and start pressing the button – like the dog associated the bell with food and started salivating)

4th Piece of Supporting Evidence

pokies addiction - problem gamblers share their story

The Pleasure Centre and The Discovery of Dopamine

Professor Schultz discovered Dopamine Neurons – the physical part of the brain formerly established as the Pleasure Centre by James Olds and Peter Milner in 1954 – and went on to make some breakthrough discoveries which provide some insight into how insidious the pokies really are – a machine truly designed to cause addiction if ever there was one.

They don’t call them the Crack Cocaine of Gambling for nothing

Professor Wolfram Schultz Discovered

Wolfram_SchultzHe experimented with Monkeys and discovered that when shown food [in a box through a window] they got excited and the dopamine levels increased. However this stopped after a few turns – the monkey knew the food would be there and so the dopamine levels did not increase – the pleasure centre of the brain was not activated.

Professor Schultz then removed the food and only placed it there at random intervals. The monkey no longer knew whether the food would be there and as such the dopamine levels continued to be elevated each time the window was revealed – food or not.

  • The Key it seemed to keeping the ‘pleasure centre’ active and creating an addiction lay in SURPRISE AND UNPREDICATABILITY

“The Brain naturally tries to make sense of things. It looks for patterns – and in the absence of any sort of order the dopamine neurons are more active. They are in effect trying to ‘decode the logic of luck”  – Professor Wolfram Schultz

“All Addictive Drugs increase the release of dopamine neurons. So when you stimulate these neurons you are halfway into the direction of addiction”  – Professor Wolfram Schultz

Data Points to Highlight:

  • Pokies are designed to increase the release of dopamine neurons through the algorithm producing random results and a computer program providing a false sense that there are actually reels turning in front of you.
  • False reels allow for ‘near misses’ and other tricks that convince the player they only just missed out on a huge win and therefore it must be coming up soon – right?
  • Each press of the pokie is effectively giving the player that surprise and unpredictability that allows for increased dopamine activity which is ‘halfway into the direction of addiction’


5th Piece of Supporting Evidence

No-one could have anticipated this next discovery!

pokies are designed to cause addiction similar to cocaine

Source: http://blogs.nature.com/boston/2008/03/19/this-is-your-brain-on-gambling

Gambling and Substance Abuse – A Study on Addiction by the US National Library of Medicine

Dr Hans Brieter compared cocaine addicts with problem gamblers and pokie machine addicts and the results were …. Not at all surprising to those who work in the design and construction of pokie machines.

Discovered (and includes Data Points highlighted):

Dr Hans Brieter discovered that the anticipation of getting a hit triggered the dopamine in a cocaine addict just as much as actually getting the hit itself – it seemed that the act of knowing it was coming was as effective as whatever ‘it’ happened to be – cocaine, alcohol, pokies….

Could a game of chance turn on this ‘system’?

Yes – Dr Brieter discovered that the ‘ANTICIPATION’ of a monetary reward [in healthy subjects with no substance addiction] looked exactly the same as cocaine addicts anticipating a hit

“Anticipation is fundamental to your experience of reward” – Dr Hans Brieter

  • This concept has been built into the machines and enhanced by the ‘false reel’ that provides “near misses” and other tricks to keep the player on their toes.
  • Near Misses – where you just miss out on a feature or huge win because of a missing symbol are actually programmed to appear 12 times more often than they would through random selections.


Ka-Ching Visual Summary –  Infographic

Why? Because a picture says a 1000 words, and I did a bloody good job of summarising the main points contained within the documentary and putting them into a visual format that told the story simply and to the point.

Please share this infographic by copying image or using embed code underneath to embed the image/link directly onto your own blog or webpage.

Ka-Ching Pokie Nation Summarised - Infographic Click image to view full-size. Right click and save-as to download image.