I happened to be staying at a hotel that was also a casino, where my client have booked me as part of a lecture series. I noticed that on each floor of the hotel was a series of brochures. One was called, ‘Responsible gambling’.
On page seven was a statement that said that the casino has numerous financial policies and procedures in place to assist customers in maintaining responsible gambling practices. The first point said, ‘ATMs are not provided within gambling areas.’
In most of my books, I refer to a range of addictions, including gambling. I have a particular fear of the powers of gambling-addiction, having known many people whose lives have been completely and utterly ruined by this disease. I have studied gambling and its grip for twenty years. For this reason, my eyes are drawn to anything about the subject, whether it be about casinos, horse racing, or scratch cards.
Obviously, casinos are aware of the problems. So much so that a brochure of this kind, with warnings and advice, are placed on every floor of the hotel, as well as within the casino area. Other brochures and pocket-sized leaflets proffer advice, along with the phone numbers for the 24-hour free and confidential Gambling Helpline.
I am not sure which committee or government department helped to draft the code of conduct. I don’t know who suggested that ATMs should not be within gambling areas? Was this a genuine recommendation based on research? Or it is a hollow gesture? The said brochure said, ‘[our] Casinos… are committed to best practice in the provision of responsible gambling, within the aim of minimising the potential harm to individuals in the community through Responsible Gambling Practices.’
Tabcorp’s website, under the heading of integrity, lists ten key compliance practices to which the Board is committed. At number seven, it says, ‘We take our obligations seriously – not paying lip service to compliance.’
The words ‘committed’ and ‘best’ and ‘responsible’ and ‘minimising’ and ‘responsible’ are serious words. If a casino is indeed committed, it would take the matter more seriously. I say this because there were three ATM machines within spitting distance. Upon entering the foyer of the hotel, one could turn left and take ten steps to reach the ATMs, or turn right and take thirteen steps to reach the casino area. A child could throw a ball from one extreme end to the other. That’s 23 steps from the gaming area to the ATMs. This is hardly a hindrance to any gambler who is gripped by the flashing lights and the lure of the millions.
Here is a photo of the three ATMs, and you can see the casino at the far end. Now I do not blame the casinos one way or the other. They have a business to run. They are in the business of making money, and that is their business. I do not mind that they have ATMs there. However, I object to their hollow statements. In all my writing, my readers would know by now that I abhor rhetoric. Don’t say that you are committed to minising harm etc, if you are not committed. And if you are committed, and you know that providing ATMs is harmful, then don’t provide any. On the other hand, if a casino is merely following the laws of the land, and is placing the ATMs exactly where they need to be in terms of the rules and regulations, then that’s fine too, but don’t print glorious brochures containing motherhood statements. Just say that we comply with the law, and the law states that ATMs should be 23 steps away, and that’s what we have done, and if you don’t like it, don’t come it. A casino is not part of the nanny state. It has a right to exist. In which case, just exist and brazenly call it like it is. Do not pretend to care for the people and the devastated families. If a person wants to be so stupid as to throw their money to the wind, then so be it. It’s a disgrace when humans have no control over their actions. I’m not blaming the casinos. I am simply challenging their ethics in terms of truth. Don’t make out that you care when you clearly don’t. And if in fact a casino did understand the horror of living within a household where one of the parents is a gambler, then that casino would not have any ATMs whatsoever. Not that this would stop a gamble in any way whatsoever. A walk up the road to a local store will provide an ATM. Besides, serious gambles with serious problems do not have any funds in ATMs. They rely on stealing, lying and cheating.
I met a young at this casino. He told me that he had lost his business and all his money to gambling. He and his mate had thought that they had found a clever way to make money. Their system worked for the first three days, and thereafter, for months to come, they could not win. All the while, they were sure that it was all due to their bad decisions, as opposed to the nature of the beast. He insisted that it was possible to make a living out of gambling, so he sold his tools, then his truck then anything else that he could liquidate, and now he had nothing. He had to live with his mother because he could not support himself. ‘Why are you here at the casino now?’ I asked. He said that he receives vouchers for free three-course meals. He said that the other casino down the coast, offers him so many free meals that he could dine there every day, if he lived down south. He came for the free meal, and while there, he tries his luck with $25. That’s his psychological limit. His internal excuse for still gambling is, ‘…to win back what they owe me. I am not going to let them get away with it.’ That’s a long and sad story.
During our conversation, I mentioned these ATMs to him, and he laughed. He said, ‘There is an ATM inside the casino gaming area!’ I could not believe it. Indeed there was. As you go down to wards the casino, past the security guard at the door, there are three steps down onto the gambling floor. Turn right, and you see a cafeteria that offers great meals. That cafeteria is two steps away from the gambling tables. Buy a meal, pay for it (at a great discount (less than 50% off) if you are a member (and it is free to become a member) and sit and eat your meal at any of the tables that are within spitting distance of the gambling tables. And five steps away, around a corner, you will see an ATM.
Yep, I had to go back the next day, just to take this photo. I ordered a fruit salad and sat at one of the white tables. My camera was placed on the table, hence the white blur at the base of each photo. The first shows the ATM that his hidden in the corner, only seconds away from the gambling floor. I swivelled my camera to the left, and you can see the lady at the poker machine. I smudged the photo so as to provide her with privacy.
Now I ask you, how can the casino say that ATMs are not provided within the gambling area? Is this a technicality? Is the gambling area defined as within arms reach from the roulette wheel? Now be fair!
By the way, after taking the shots of the three blue ATMs shown above, I noticed that a transaction receipt had been left behind, sticking put of the slot. Of course, that’s no big deal, because the three large chrome bins next to each ATM contained dozens of receipts. But this one, sticking out, was an ominous invitation. So I pulled it out, and here it is. The user had withdrawn $500, and had no funds left. The available balance was zero. Luckily, the person had had a cheque that had not cleared. Otherwise, I would have bet that the person would have dipped into that as well. I found it interesting that the back of each ATM receipt says, ‘Is gambling a problem for you?’ and then it lists the gambling helpline 1800 number. If the backs of ATM receipts were known to work, the space would have been sold to advertisers.
The photo on the left is of the ATMs at Crown Casino in Melbourne. The machines are seconds away from the gaming floor. The photo below is of the ATMs at Conrad Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast. These ATMs are also seconds away from the gaming floor. So who are we kidding? Why not save all this effort and just place them at every gaming table. Swipe your card and be done with it.