About The Film

The Pokies.

They’re rigged. They’re addictive. They’re everywhere.

Australia has rapidly become the Pokies capital of the world, with five times more machines per capita than the USA. We’re losing a staggering $12 billion a year[1], but everyone – players, industry and government – are hooked. What is it that makes these machines uniquely addictive?

Ka-Ching! delves behind the flashing lights and spinning reels to find out what makes pokies so treacherous, leading one expert to call them the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.

We speak exclusively to the masterminds behind the machine, who reveal how carefully they program Pokies, with a highly organized network of mathematicians, musicians and designers, working together on a single vision: to make sure punters keep playing, and the machines keep winning. With gambling disorder now listed alongside cocaine and heroin addiction in the world’s ‘psychiatric Bible’, the DSM[2], pokies have exceptional pulling power.

In addition to neuroscientists, anthropologists and game theorists, we hear from Pokies victims themselves, who’ve fallen prey to what they describe as an ‘unlawful hypnotism’. They let us in on the psychological lure of the machines, describing an escapist ‘zone’ where the stresses of the outside world disappear.

Together, these testimonies cast doubt on the industry’s assertion that the problem is with a small minority of individuals who ‘can’t control themselves’ with this otherwise innocuous past time.

Ka-Ching! takes us to the suburban backwaters of our capital cities, where Pokies thrive, with five times more machines than affluent post-codes[3]. We see a trail of destruction that extends far beyond the clubs and pubs – into divided households, struggling local businesses and under-resourced social services.

The film finishes by looking at the role of government in this situation. We chart the unsuccessful attempt to reel in the industry during the Gillard government, which met a vociferous campaign by the gargantuan Clubs Australia. With the government reliant on tax revenue to fill budget holes, our MPs hands are tied – but there’s a harrowing social cost.


[1] Australian Productivity Commission report ‘Gambling’.

[2] The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

[3] See http://www.responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/information-and-resources/research/recent-research/modelling-vulnerability-to-gambling-related-harm-how-disadvantage-predicts-gambling-losses