Adams and Wiles describe these rooms as “annexes” – spaces adjoining a “main hall”, where people eat, drink, and socialise. Annexes can be large or small; the entrance can be tucked away in back or right by the front door. But some characteristics are consistent. Machines are tightly clustered, and placed such that talking to other players is difficult. People in the annex are not easily visible to people in the main hall. General lighting is subdued and windows are shuttered, if there are any. The effect is to encourage a solitary—and private—relationship between player and pokie.
What was the motivation behind your research on gambling venue layout and gaming machine positioning?
‘The pokie room is an extraordinary environment which has attracted very little attention. I reckon most people who walk through them would sense how unusual they are, particularly in the highly socialized environment of a bar. I also noticed that when I went into pokie rooms around the world they shared many similar features. Why are they like this? How have they evolved in such a consistent fashion?’
How was this research conducted? (did you draw on previous research, what was your procedure, I’m curious as to how you examined a gambling venue and made conclusions that the layout could lead to gambling harm)
‘There is not much opportunity for research of this type in NZ unless you are willing to accept funding from hypothecated sources which I am not willing to do, at least not any more. So much of the article is based on my own observations of pokie rooms. We need sources of funding for research of this type which are not controlled by industry-government alliances.’
What were the main learnings (main points) from this research?
‘I was hypothesizing that the “annex” had its own dynamic which related more strongly to problem gambling than low risk gambling.’
Why is this research important?
‘It is part of responding to industry-government responses to gambling which position problem gambling as driven by the bio-psychological aspects of an isolated, desocialized individual. This frame has been used consistently to download responsibility for gambling related harm away from broader social and economic determinants and onto the individual player. Research on gambling environments highlights the opportunities for policy to make a difference in reducing problem gambling rather than enabling it.’
What and who can learn from this research? (did your findings confirm your hypothesis, what should people take away from this body of research)
‘We need to know more.’
Adams and Wiles’ paper, “Gambling machine annexes as enabling spaces for addictive engagement”, is available in the journal Health & Place (ScienceDirect). Your local library may be able to help you get a copy.
Watch Peter Adams on the Seven Sharp segment screened last year: An Auckland University professor says gaming rooms are designed to fuel addiction, and the layouts must change.
Peter Adams has published three sole-authored books: Gambling, Freedom and Democracy (Routledge, 2007), Fragmented Intimacy: Addiction in a Social World (Springer, 2008) and Masculine Empire: How Men Use Violence to Keep Women in Line (Dunmore, 2012) and has recently written a book, Moral Jeopardy: Risks of Accepting Money from Tobacco, Alcohol and Gambling Industries. Read more here