KING HIT: Former Tuross Head boxer Scott Eager would like to smash poker machine addiction.Scott Eagar knows how to land a knock-out punch but these days his target is the poker machine industry and its political protectors.
Offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to king-hit a national addiction, the former Tuross Head professional boxer says Australia risks blowing it.
He should know.
After the birth of his son with serious health issues 14 years ago, Mr Eagar lost his footing.
“I was either at work, at the hospital or at the local bar,” the roofer and boxing coach said.
“I wasn’t a drinker, so I used to play the pokies just to fill in time, but all of a sudden I was more looking forward to playing the pokies than sitting there with my son. I was addicted.”
Eventually he landed a right hook on his habit, but he fears “watered down” measures proposed in Canberra won’t help those addicts left in thrall to “the cash cow”.
And the window for change has closed further with the appointment of Liberal defector Peter Slipper as Federal Speaker, thus neutralising pokie-reforming Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
However, Senator Nick Xenophon is lobbying for Mr Eagar to give evidence next year to the Joint Committee on Gambling Reform.
After personally surveying 200 players, Mr Eagar has spent the past weeks furiously lobbying politicians, shock jocks and newspaper editors.
“Pokies are designed to give false hope to the poor, the pensioners, the battlers,” he said.
“They are taking money from people who can’t afford it and building seven-storey car parks and 400-square-metre bistros.”
That cow’s deadliest, most profitable weapon, he says, “is the game within the game”.
He’s referring to what players call “the feature”, with its lure of free spins and more lucrative prizes.
From bitter experience and his own survey, he’s convinced “the feature” is the elusive high players chase and he compares it to “drug addiction”.
“It’s the drawcard that makes people wait for an hour and a half and keep spending money, hoping to get it,” Mr Eagar said.
“The actual playing of the poker machine becomes irrelevant, waiting for the game within a game.”
Without it, he says, the average player becomes bored.
“On a graph of excitement, it’s flat lines,” he said.
“Then, all of a sudden, you get the feature and it shoots up, you are excited, the machine … makes a different sound (and you think) you have more chance of getting money.
“Then the feature finishes, boom, back down again and you keep pumping money in (until) it shoots up again. It is as if you get a hit of drugs and boom, your adrenalin is rushing.”
He says, in that state, players are vulnerable.
“Most people lose their money waiting for the feature. The whole thing is a con. You have Buckley’s chance in hell. Ask any player.”
Frustrated when a talkback radio host fobbed him off recently, Mr Eagar did just that, he asked more than 200 players in his local area a series of questions about their habits and found “87 per cent agreed with me”.
Then he sent his results to “every newspaper editor in the country” with a frank personal letter, entitled “Earth to politicians”.
“I’m a nobody, an everyday guy,” it began. “I’m a roofer in the day and a boxing coach at nights. I’m also an ex-poker machine addict. I used to be one of the people this government is supposedly trying to help.
“I’m talking about poker machine reform … about the government trying to do something about the teachers, builders, nurses, pensioners, housewives, white and blue collar workers, anyone you know, who may be secretly but painfully addicted.”
Mr Eagar’s survey drew attention from Senator Xnenophon and Mr Wilkie.
“Scott’s contribution to the debate has been very useful,” Mr Xenophon told the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.
“I am advocating for him to give evidence to the Joint Committee on Gambling Reform in the new year.”
Mr Eagar fears both the ALP and the Coalition don’t want effective reform because it would erode tax revenue and political support.
“On (the other) side of the fence you have people who know there is a problem and want to do something. There is a little window of opportunity,” he said.
He says pre-commitment cards will be useless unless they apply to every machine and every player, as the Productivity Commission recommended.
“If you have a pre-commitment card, you are betting $1.50 and you hit your limit and have blown your dough and on the next machine you can bet a dollar, what do you think you are going to do? Go to that next machine and keep trying to win the money back. Have it on every machine, every player, or don’t bother.”
Mr Eagar wants “the feature” banned, a maximum of $1 bets and minimal jackpots.
“Those three things would work,” Mr Eagar said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.