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Programmed for addiction - ABC Documentary to expose the evils of Pokie industry @ABCTV

ProgrammingKevin Perry

Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation - This October on ABCTV
image - supplied/ABCTV

Tuesday 20 October at 9.30pm on ABC

The Pokies. They’re rigged, they’re addictive, and they’re everywhere. And most of the machines are in the poorest postcodes across the nation.

This October ABCTV will air a new documentary ‘Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation’ produced by Neil Lawrence and Mitzi Goldman that exposes how the seemingly innocuous Pokie machines at your local pub are programmed for addiction.


For the first time, industry insiders go on the record to explain how these sophisticated machines combine graphics and musical elements with complex mathematical algorithms to keep punters hooked. Viewers will hear from game designers, mathematicians and composers who’ve designed hundreds of machines, as they break the silence around this highly secretive industry.

Their testimonies are supported by world-leading neuroscientists, who take viewers into the lab to show how these machines work on our brains, leading some researchers to call them “the crack cocaine of gambling” and “electronic morphine”.


Exclusive interviews with the architects behind these machines reveal how carefully they program pokies for addiction, with a highly organised network of mathematicians, musicians, sound and lighting designers all working together on a single vision: to make the punters lose and keep on losing. Their testimonies are supported by a series of world-renowned neuroscientists and addiction specialists, including Wolfram Schultz, a pioneer in dopamine research. Together, their ground-breaking research casts doubt on a long-held industry assertion: that the problem is with a small minority of individuals who lack self-control.

The program also explores the relationship between the Pokie industry and the government, exposing the complexities caused by the government’s reliance on tax revenue to fill budget holes, the implications of political donations to both major parties by gambling-related companies and the massive pressures imposed by powerful lobby groups and stakeholders.


Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation unveils how successive Australian governments have become the biggest addicts of all. The film reveals the powerful alliances that support the pokie industry and benefit from the massive income it generates ($12 billion a year).