The Pokies

Pokies is what Aussies call slot machines or fruit machines as I used to call them. Last night I popped down to the bar to ask if I could send my Amazon order of outside speakers to the bar. On an earlier post I explained the problems with deliveries to the house and rather than open a P.O. Box I thought it easier to use the bar. Every delivery guy knows the bars and Maria-Ann said it would be no problem . So I, of course, felt duty bound to stay for a beer. It was too cold to sit outside so we went in and sat by the bank of pokies, four in all. Now when I worked in pubs in London when resting in between jobs we always called the machines the landlord’s holiday fund but Marie-Ann doesn’t seem to take holidays however they do have a 7 series BMW !

As we sat a young guy came in and went to the change machine and changed €100 into coins and started to play. 10 mins later that was gone so he changed another €50. That soon went too and he walked out.

After the bassist of the Whitlams committed suicide it was discovered he had a gambling habit hence the song. Some 15 minutes later the guy returned and changed another €100 and quickly lost that and back out through the door he went. We sat there somewhat stunned €250 in under half an hour. But it is normal in the bar. Indeed it is normal throughout Italy. In 1994 scratch cards were legalised. Before that gambling was banned and whilst there was evidence of illegal gambling it is hard to put a figure on it. However the government needed revenue without the unpopular way by raising taxes and the ball started to roll. In 2004 they legalised the pokies and we were off to the races like there was no tomorrow. By 2012 Italy which has 1% of the world’s population represented  25% of the world’s turnover in gambling. There are 400,000 slots in Italy one for every 150 people.

The trouble is they don’t have any luck. Italians lost €505 per head in 2012 which when you think of the kids here and that so many of the women  don’t gamble you begin to realise the extent of the problem. So if they lose who wins. Well the gaming companies of course, the mafia who control lots of the machines and use legal gambling to launder billions of euros each year. But the real winner is the government who pocket €10billion each year and that figure is growing.  The crisi  ( recession) caused a 12% jump in the amount people spent on chancing their arm last year as desperate people tried to win to pay debts. Almost 1 million people in Italy now have a gambling problem and deaths caused by gambling debts are increasing each year.

So the government is obviously going to kerb the spread isn’t it and work on the social issues that  their move into legalising gambling seems to have caused to the population ?

Which drop of rain did you come down on ? No, the government has realised there is an hole in the market that needs to be filled. Video poker. Now there’s a game to get Italian hearts zinging. So in January 2013 Sr. Monti announced that he had okayed the opening of 1,000 video poker arcades in Italy during this year alone. Reform the lawyers, open up competition in the petrol industry, break the stranglehold of pharmacists in Italy that keep prices 3 times higher than the rest of Europe ( don’t buy aspirin here ) nah too difficult. Video poker that’s the brave new world for us and think of the revenue Frau Angela.  So I guess it won’t be long before my bar boasts one of those as well.

Now I always thought the Aussies were the people most hooked on pokies in the world but it seems not. On board ship in the 60’s we had 2 shilling ( 10pence) one shilling  (5 p and sixpence ( 2.5 p) machines. The Assistant Purser looked after the 2 shilling. the junior assistant the shilling and me the purser cadet the sixpence machine for reasons that will become apparent. On the outbound voyage to OZ the machines got played but to no great extent. The passengers were all migrants on the then £10 one way passage scheme. However once we had run round OZ dropping them off we stared to pick up Aussies going to the UK and the machines started to humm. From emptying them once a week outbound we went to twice and then every day on the inbound trip. These Aussies stood at the pokies hour after hour . Now in those days the counter in the machine was mechanical so as the coin tripped it it registered. But these machines were made for a British audience. They couldn’t cope with the amount being stuck in them . Our job was to match the counter number to the money in the machine and hand it to the purser ( he got a cut from the total taking from H.Q. ) . But the machines couldn’t cope . So the Assistant purser would pay for all his bar drinks with two shilling pieces to the slight amusement of the crew and the passengers. The Junior with shillings to slightly more amused chuckles of everyone and the purser cadet, yours truly, if he could stagger up to the bar without his trousers falling down from the weight of all the sixpences paid with them to the hilarity of everyone.




About hereinpuglia

Retired to Puglia after some 40 years in the travel industry working for P&O Lines, British Airways, Alamo rent-a-car,Abercrombie&Kent, owner of Quest Tours and Travel and finally with Thomas Cook North America. Married to Geraldine we now have a small house with too much land near the town of Martina Franca in Puglia. Two kids one married and living in Hong Kong and the other single and living in London. No dogs, no cats no animals.
This entry was posted in Driving in Italy, Ferries From Bari, Puglia, Puglia Guide, Puglia Living and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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