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The Sounds of Silence?


At 11am each working day, the biggest RSL in Western Sydney asks patrons to stop smoking and gambling and be upstanding for the memorial to fallen soldiers.

Laurence Binyon: 
For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

That is the full poem as written by Binyon in 1914. It would be four more bitter and bloody filled years before the guns of the Great War would be finally silenced, even though it was for a brief respite of 30 years.

So there you are, standing in front of a machine making all sorts of Pac-Man like noises as those words are echoed through the loudspeakers.

One must ask themselves, is this what it was all about? People died so we can play pokies? Not sure if many of those who fell would agree with that.

Was it always this way? That such clubs were designed for gambling? Or did gambling become a bigger and bigger part of their business to the point where it has become their business.

When smoking laws meant smoking must be done outside of internal gaming areas, almost immediately the clubs began to place a ‘smokers’ section outside.

Gambling and smoking and drinking and gambling and smoking and drinking.

Some will tell you there is no link. Really? Then why need machines specifically for smokers? Why offer game players drink services so they don’t even have to leave their seat? What’s next? Seats with built in toilets? Mind you, according to some who work in gambling areas, people are already using seats as toilets.

When I was a kid, the folks would take us out to the club because you got a great meal and there was free entertainment. I don’t even remember seeing gaming machines at the clubs. A RSL was a community club where you went to have a drink and sit with some friends, listen to some music and have a meal.

My things have changed. Now entertainment is the machine. You pay as it entertains you. Even when it is not entertaining you, you pay.

Now I am not saying that clubs do not provide the services it used to offer when I was a kid. It is just instead of those services being front and centre, the first thing you are assaulted when you walk into most clubs is the incessant sound of the gambling machines. Like the pied piper, the customers are lured to the trap. To get to places of the club you want to frequent, you have to go through the heart of the gaming area.

The sounds abate and assault you as do the very occasional cheer from winners, if that is what they are. And it is SOUNDS that make a gaming area. I will come back to this.

Currently the Australian Government wants to impose some restrictions to how these machines are used. There is talk about a preset limit that the client sets before play. When they get to that limit, the card stops. There is also talk about reducing the top bet from $10 say in NSW to $1.

As you can imagine, clubs are angry as! How dare anyone put an end to their golden goose. And so Clubs Australia have decided to go to war. How this will all play out is going to be intriguing.

What I don’t understand though is why the government does not make one simple change that will do more to preventing pokie machine overuse then anything else.

Take out the sound cards and reduce the lights and bells.

Yes I can imagine you all out there looking at me in horror. But hey, I occasionally partake of a little pokie fun, and nothing pushes me away more than a machine that makes absolutely no noise.

It’s exactly the same machine, it is exactly at the same betting limits, but without sound, the machine is far from enticing.

There is something hypnotic about the music and the noise. So much so that in most cases, I believe players play the machines to hear those noises. I also believe that if clubs were forced to remove the sound cards, then pokie use will decline accordingly.

That means less money going in which means less payouts going out and who wants to play a machine with really low payouts?

Of course if you listen to the clubs, any reduction of bets or reduction of money in will mean they will go broke.


If I put in $20 and spend an hour and walk away with a reasonable chance to win something but not necessarily the big jackpot, then I am likely to come back two or three times a week, play a little, drink a little, buy a meal, or a ticket to a show. If I blow a months salary in a night, I wont be back for a month.

Odds are odds. Gambling is not something you do for fun. It is a business. Clubs know this.

So why do they want to make it seem like pokies are just a little bit of harmless fun? If playing pokies actually meant the club lost money when it made a payout, then most clubs would have gone broke decades ago.

Now you may scoff at my little suggestion re the sound cards. But you go ahead and you propose it to the clubs and see the anger you will get.

It seems this entire pokie machine industry is one big charade.

One word. First word. Sounds like (and looks like) – Poverty.

I know of some people who dream the noises. Don’t tell me they are there only for show.

A. Ghebranious 2011 (All Rights Reserved)

  1. Jennifer Baratta permalink

    Great Tribute too bad politics got involved

  2. Matt Ross permalink

    Few things you need to think about look at your local clubs quaterly, look close at how many clubs you go to and see if there been in the black or in the red. Now when this go thru and it will, see how many clubs close, not saying that problem gamblers are a good thing, not saying people with no common sense dont have issue. but my friend watch those meal prices go up, the beer prices and then watch those people who get cheap meals, and beer stop going to those clubs and just watch as those people who support those club say I cant afford to go and the club close. That little RSL has to sell out to a superclub, and of course the sub branch goes by the wayside and then of course all decisions are taken away from the local people, and all those community grants that clubs give choices are taken out of local peoples hands. Wonderful for proffessional grant writters who write to someone in sydney not for local community groups. and the people who direct the funds go look at the panthers group if you dont believe what I just said. Ask this question how much of poker machine money goes back to the community.

  3. Matt Ross permalink

    Sorry its not just that cut and dry this issue has massive flow on effect

    • Not calling for a ban. Just moving them from the front to a backroom where they are all silent and without flashing lights. Play away !

  4. Pip permalink

    Well said Ashghebranious.

    From the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Clubs hitting the jackpot and keeping most of the booty

    “Only about 2.7% of the money clubs in NSW take from their poker machines is donated to the community, an analysis of the state’s largest clubs by the Herald has found, while the cost of the INDUSTRY’S TAX CONCESSIONS
    is $6.5 BILLION since 1997.
    When tax concessions are taken into account the figure is far lower.”

    This is not so different from the Minerals Councils, spending their $22 million [lunch money to them} campaign fund, in an effort to stop the MRRT, and hopefully bring down the government, which in turn denied Australia of a fair price for the minerals they take, and the enormous profits they send overseas.

    In both the clubs and hotels and the mining companies campaigns the problem is that they want enormous profits to cntinue to grow without paying a fair price for the privilege of taking away resources which belong to us.

    It’s about unfettered greed.

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