Kiwi Women Play Pokies to Relieve Stress

Stress can cause wreckage in our minds if we don’t put a conscious effort into finding a way to relieve it. Nevertheless, there are some causes of stress that can land you in a stand-off situation. Women, who are burdened by the overwhelming responsibility of caring for their children, their family members, while working and with little mental support, find that playing pokies is an easy way out of the daily cumbersome work of balancing their personal and professional lives.  

Dr Katie Palmer du Preez, a senior research fellow at the Auckland University of Technology conversed with a total of 165 New Zealanders in order to analyze the way gender conventions are instrumental in aggravating gambling-related harm in Kiwi women. Dr Katie Palmer du Preez says that 6.4% of women along with 8.3% of men had experienced some damage due to gambling in the past 12 months. These damages could be either financial, emotional, relational, or cultural and social fallout.

Dr Katie Palmer du Preez takes the example of Brenda McQuillan’s gambling addiction who says, “I was constantly feeling that guilt about money. I needed it for my daughter, my family. That money wasn’t being spent how it should be.” Brenda finds that the sole way to avoid the guilt eating her away is to keep pouring her money into the pokies.

Pokies as a Social Activity?

Analysing McQuillan’s situation as a single parent juggling work, studying, and family, she resorted to pokies because she saw it as a social activity. She also found safety in her world of gambling as she describes, “If you go into a bar or hotel you can be hit on. But there’s an unspoken rule that in the pokie area no one talks to each other, and no one gets hit on.”

To her, some slot machines offer a quick and instant reward which is apt for people who get to spend very little time for and by themselves opines Palmer du Preez. 

She adds: “It was easy for [women] to fit in a trip to the pokies around their often quite demanding caring responsibilities. One woman said she had two hours to herself a week. It wasn’t easy for her to schedule when those two hours were going to be, but you can go to those venues for an hour or two almost any time you like. Placing [pokie venues] in communities where women don’t have other alternatives for leisure is a really dangerous thing.”

A Virtual Escape from Family Violence

Palmer du Preez from her conversation with the women also learns that family violence is often the “dominant theme”  why these women sought an escape through gambling. 

Brendy McQuillan said that most people find addiction “baffling”. Addiction is a rather hard habit to get rid of. But, this brings us to the question – Why couldn’t she just walk away?

And to that, McQuillan retorts, “If I could have stopped, I would have.” Our brain cannot function that way. McQuillan asks us to, “Think about when you’re young and you first have chocolate. That switch has been turned on, and you will always like chocolate. And once that switch is turned on, it takes all the willpower and support and therapy and outside interventions to stop it.”

Brenda McQuillan’s addiction was on and off over the span of six years. Her daughter was 11 when she last poured her coins into a pokie machine in 2004.

When Winning Isn’t the End Objective

Krista Ferguson, chief executive of Gambling Helpline, opines, “Studies show women tend to gamble to numb themselves rather than necessarily win.” Thus, gambling acts as a necessary entertainment and stress reliever. But, it doesn’t take much for any kind of stress reliever to become addicted. 

Ms. Ferguson  adds, “With pokie machines, you can go into a trancelike state – you can escape from all that stress of Christmas for a little while.” Ms. Ferguson states that for every problem gambler, a total of seven of their family or friends were also inconvenienced. Partners who had to share the gambling-related debt had to exhaust the balance in their joint credit cards or the mortgage to finance the habit. 



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