Australia's Growing Pokies Epedemic Highlighted By Young Mother's Tragic DeathOctober 18, 2010 9:39 am
A South Australian Coroner’s Court has concluded that the tragic suicide of Ms Natt, 24 in 2006 was “a direct result of her inability to cope [with her addiction].”
The young mother of two had worked at the Adelaide Casino from the age of 18, during which time she wrestled with her compulsive addiction to slot machines, otherwise known as ‘pokies’ in Australia, or fruit machines in Britain.
Many of her fellow co-workers had similar problems and were able to stem their own pokies addiction by working at their regular casinos. After work, however, Ms Natt would often find other venues at which to gamble and managed to clock up $100,000 in debts directly related to her addiction. Some nights Ms Natt was even believed to lose up to $1400 after finishing work.
As South Australian Coroner Mark Johns explains:
“Katherine’s suicide note and the evidence taken at this inquest show that she was addicted to gambling on poker machines as a result of which she suffered heavy financial losses and became concerned that she would lose the custody of one or both of her children. In consequence of these matters she took an overdose of paracetamol in what was a clear act of suicide.”
This latest tragedy further highlights what is increasingly being seen as a growing social problem in Australia, where 300,000 people or 15% of poker machine players were considered problem gamblers. Consequently, 40% of all spending was accounted for by these addicts who each lost on average $12,000 each year playing the slots.
Helping to compound the problem is the fact that Australian slot machines are ‘very high impact’ and capable of taking up to $1,500 per hour from their hapless punters.
The coroner has now recommended Prime Minister Julia Gillard receives a copy of his report following Ms Natt’s tragic death, as the government continues considering a range of options to deal with Australia’s growing pokies problem.