Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Casino

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  • Luke Williamson,

    What astounds me with the pokies is that people will feed money into a computer that is programmed to make you lose. There's no chance involved in the long run, it's just fact. Scary. And the longer you play, i.e. when you get addicted, the greater the chance of you losing.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    The roulette is also programmed to make you lose, without being a computer. I think most gamblers are probably at least vaguely aware that the house is always going to be the winner on average against the society of gamblers - they just hope they're going to be the odd individual who comes out on top.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Bea Braun,

    I think you got a bit carried away here.An abattoir? Like smoking, gambling isn't something people do because they hate it. I accept all its evils but also happliy accept the $1000's I have won over the years in casinos all over the world with tiny stakes (never more than $NZ50 for a fun night out) on the blackjack tables and the pokies. Blackjack I have played since I was a kid and we still play it with our own children - for match sticks. We could all count to 21 almost before we knew our ABC!

    I rather dislike the patronising look-down-the-nose attitude to the leisure activites of hoi polloi. I have elderly relatives who love their weekly visit to the casino and get great enjoyment (and often winnings) from the experience.

    There are surely controls that can be put in place for the so-called addicts but I resent laws restricting my pleasures because of the minority who can't handle them. Just like the whole class being put in detention becasue a teacher can't be bothered sorting out the culprits.

    Hamilton • Since May 2008 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville,

    Getting into the buzz entails recognising that some people are going to be hurt by what they're doing.

    Now I'm not a casino fan, the place bores me rigid but isn't this exactly the same as going into a bar and having a drink? At some point you can't be responsible for all of society's ills, if you can handle your drink/play a game of cards without ruining your life or those of others then good luck to you.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I know that "pokie" derives from "poker machine", but it also describes the activity. People poke at pokies. Another word that comes to mind is "disconsolate".

    I really don't get pokies. You put your money in, a bunch of lights flash and things go around, and then it tells you that you've lost, or won. I've never been able to figure out what the difference is between the winning and the losing, which maybe is part of the point. "Ooh, 3 bananas, that must be good!" (actually nothing), but "Two monkeys and a star, bugger!" (turns out to be worth $5).

    I went into a casino at Niagara a few years ago with $20, and spent a very enjoyable hour competing against a blackjack pokie. It was just like playing real cards against a dealer. At one stage I was about 10 bucks up, but I finished $5 down and decided to call it then.

    We don't seem to have those 'real' games much here in NZ. It's all nonsensical pictures scrolling across the screen, which seems way less attractive to me.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I think you got a bit carried away here.An abattoir?

    That was just the image that came to mind, looking down from the mezzanine at people gambling on a weekday morning.

    I rather dislike the patronising look-down-the-nose attitude to the leisure activites of hoi polloi. I have elderly relatives who love their weekly visit to the casino and get great enjoyment (and often winnings) from the experience.

    Yes, and I know lots of people who derive innocent pleasure from, say, the occasional ingestion of marijuana. The law takes quite a different view of the two activities.

    I did look at the respective redeeming merits of pokies and cannabis for Peter Dunne's benefit a while back. Pokies don't seem have inspired any major creative works, while pot can claim the Beatles and Bob Marley.

    There are surely controls that can be put in place for the so-called addicts but I resent laws restricting my pleasures because of the minority who can't handle them. Just like the whole class being put in detention becasue a teacher can't be bothered sorting out the culprits

    So you're up for decrirminalisation of other pleasures then?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I really don't get pokies. You put your money in, a bunch of lights flash and things go around, and then it tells you that you've lost, or won. I've never been able to figure out what the difference is between the winning and the losing, which maybe is part of the point.

    I was struck by the way that you couldn't really tell from the faces of the players whether they were winning or losing. You'd hear the coins cascade, but see barely a flicker across the face of the player. Its even rare to see people talk to each other.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    If anyone can point me in the direction of any 'gambling psychology 101' stuff, I'd really be interested.

    I went to the Sky City Casino once with someone I know. Now, gambling is not something I 'get', at all, for all the reasons Russell outlined. Added to that, I've gone to the races a couple of times, just to see what all the fuss is about. Seems to me that when you go to the races, you're effectively paying money to watch horses run around in the distance. That doesn't really do it for me.

    My friend, on the other hand....

    We put a fiver in one of the pokies, and it burped out around $40. Great, thinks I. Let's get out while we're ahead and go to the bar. I turned around, turned back again, and my friend had already fed half the money back into the machine. I had to grab them and physically drag them away before it all went back where it had come from. Not the most uplifting experience I've ever had.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Zippy Gonzales,

    I really don't get pokies. You put your money in, a bunch of lights flash and things go around, and then it tells you that you've lost, or won.

    And being told they're a winner by a machine that takes their money will probably be the only positive reinforcement that these people ever get.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 186 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Graham,

    The roulette is also programmed to make you lose, without being a computer.

    Not in the same way. Roulette is biased against you winning but it does not do any balancing. A win in roulette does not make the chances of a loss in the next round any higher.

    I am under the impression that this is what pokies do. I can't really say that I know this, but I have heard so and I would not expect a casino to do things any other way unless explicitly legislated for.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Sky taketh away, but they also giveth. Check out their political donations in 2005.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Zippy Gonzales,

    Russell, there is no point using facial tricks to accept reward from a machine. Or maybe it's just pokerface. It's an internalised kick, which is why your opium den reference is so apt.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 186 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I know lots of people who derive innocent pleasure from, say, the occasional ingestion of marijuana. The law takes quite a different view of the two activities.

    Wrongly, in my view. Drugs (all of them) should be legal, at least for the user.

    The cycleway boondoggle was being sold on a basis of the backpacker tourists it would attract. It occurred to be that a cheaper option would be to legalise MDMA, which would bring the kids of Europe and America here in their millions.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    I think you got a bit carried away here.An abattoir?

    Maybe, but it's a hard analogy not to make when struck by the sheer industrial nature of clients/victims poking the pokies en masse. As someone noted about the onetime Nintendoland at Sydney's Darling Harbour, unless you happened to be immersed in the games on offer, the place seemed only one step short of a concrete barn filled with modified poultry processing equipment, where young men were suspended by their heels from the moving chain while their pockets were rifled by men in cheap suits.

    Meanwhile, a local case of blatant corporate piracy.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Zippy Gonzales,

    A win in roulette does not make the chances of a loss in the next round any higher.

    Have you heard of section spinning?

    Roulette was designed by Franciscan monks, possibly as an elegant form of meditation. Fate and chance dance together, and at the end of the day the house always wins.

    If religion is the opiate of the masses, I'd rather have opium.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 186 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    One other thing that freaked me a little: it seems it's possible to feed the pokies from a stored-value card. For security reasons, it's advisable to have your card on a string -- or, rather, a coiled plastic lead.

    This leads to the odd sight of middle-aged ladies physically leashed to their machines.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    We put a fiver in one of the pokies, and it burped out around $40. Great, thinks I. Let's get out while we're ahead and go to the bar. I turned around, turned back again, and my friend had already fed half the money back into the machine. I had to grab them and physically drag them away before it all went back where it had come from. Not the most uplifting experience I've ever had.

    I should probably clarify that one of the reasons that this unsettled me so much is because my friend had gone from affable, happy-go-lucky, perfectly pleasent companion, to wearing the sort of bug-eyed, lock-jawed 1000-yard stare I've only otherwise seen on people off their nut on some serious speed. Talking with increasing volume and concern into their ear didn't have much effect.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Neil Gaiman on the kindle thing

    When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Ackroyd,

    Wait. UMP paid €53? A little googling tells me this is a "standard fee" for the "French music licensing body". That kind of usage would cost thousands here. Am I missing something?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    That was just the image that came to mind, looking down from the mezzanine at people gambling on a weekday morning.

    That was the image conjured up for me too, when I peeked through the black curtains whilst at the SPADA conference last year. Something akin to a joyless factory floor.

    As for pokies, they involve too much work for the novice player--all those button and options, which conceal the possibility that all your coins are going down a one-way shute.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2559 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    This has better suggestions that the Job Summit.

    This place seems to me not so far off the opium dens that used to cluster just up the road from the casino.

    Hobson St was so much more interesting back in the 50's & 60's
    Bring back the opium dens, but only for those over 60 cause this recession will pass in a haze and hell who gives a FF about being addicted in old age.

    It occurred to be that a cheaper option would be to legalise MDMA, which would bring the kids of Europe and America here in their millions.

    I hear angels singing John, can you hear them,
    John helloooo. Oh thats right he's over in Aust promoting NZ as a gay travel destination.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    Some years ago I was doing a breakfast theatre show in Auckland. I was finished by 10am every morning, and was usually wired on coffee by that point. Having no car, and without anything better to do, I started going to the casino for a couple of hours each day. I always played blackjack (at the smallest possible stake). I found that I could get through a couple of hours with minimal losses and occasional gains; enough to be better than other ways I could spend money (on more cups of coffee for example). I met some interesting people along the way and generally had a good time.
    I agree that the pokies are disturbing if you watch the people playing them. I used to get a similar feeling when I watched the higher stakes balckjack tables - the people there seemed to react the same if they last $1000 or won $1000.

    BTW I once read that Sky City makes $50 for every person that walks through its doors. That's not just the people who play the games, that's everyone. Which means that some people are dropping a lot of money there.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    It is not true, either, that the casino won't let you empty your bladder, in case the spell breaks.

    The last time I was there (for anthropological purposes, natch), I noticed that there were tags that you could attach to your pokie machine while you went away for a quick wee to show that it was still in use. And it made me wonder what sort of problems were caused before that - were people peeing on their stools or were their dust-ups when someone return from the loo only to find someone sitting at their lucky machine.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood,

    I once put $2 into a 20c pokie machine in my one and only visit to Sky City. The thing then flashed the big "9" button at me vigorously, so I dutifully pressed it. Then it spun once said I had 20c left.

    All I can deduce is that the "9" meant "HEY GREAT! You can play 9 games instantly, and we'll just skip all the button pressing and screen spinning and take your money. THANKS!"

    I was stunned. I thought the whole point was operant conditioning? It's like giving the rat a robot that will press the "food" paddle for it.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Zippy Gonzales,

    I never witnessed any examples of seat-peeing while working there, but you'd be amazed at how many spilt drinks a table game's cloth can absorb. I'm no obsessive clean freak, but environmental biologists could do their PhDs on the bacteria of gaming chips and tablecloths.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 186 posts Report Reply

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