During the current lockdown the majority of people here are grappling with the present, and contemplating what to do in a long and drawn out recovery. A few however, particularly a well cashed up elite, are setting their sights much higher for the difficult years that lie ahead. Some are investing in million dollar houses and other properties, others like the Star Casino are looking to greatly expand their operations.
It seems strange that at a time when nobody is visiting the temple of avarice at Pyrmont, that the Star would be lobbying the State Government to add an extra 1000 poker machines to its gaming floor. As the Sydney Morning Herald reported last weekend the casino is looking to buy up existing pokie licenses from clubs throughout the state that are doing it tough and need to flog off a number of their machines.
Those in the community that despise poker machines or have witnessed the trauma that problem gamblers experience, would take some comfort that nobody is playing them during the current statewide lockdown. The loss of revenue to clubs, pubs and the State Government itself must be monumental but at least it is not being financed by Joe Citizen’s weekly pay cheque. Needless to say many of those inveterate pokie players have turned to various forms of online gambling to satisfy their habit. During the pandemic there has been a proliferation of TV advertising from the big multi national corporate bookmakers like Sportsbet and Bet365, in a concerted campaign to sign up the stay at home punter.
When the lockdown is eventually lifted there will no doubt be a rush of punters busting to return to their local VIP lounge. Maybe an enlightened few, who have endured the enforced pandemic cold turkey, will look to other forms of instant gratification. However, human nature tells us that the majority will be sucked back in with the elusive promise of that mega jackpot.
One thing that is seldom discussed is the role that artificial intelligence will play in the never ending technical evolution of what was once known as the one armed bandit. The danger of RSI from pulling that squeaky analogue lever has long been removed from the modern poker machine, replaced with carefully choreographed digital display of flashing lights and seductive sound effects. What the future holds is anybody’s guess, but leaked reports indicate that some of the world’s biggest pokie manufacturers are looking to the explosion of AI technology in China.
It was recently revealed that the Chinese had developed a system of AI emotion-detection software which they were testing on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. The facial recognition system supposedly assesses a person’s state of mind – and in the case of the Uyghurs the propensity to commit civil disobedience.
In the poker machine of the future this software could be installed to monitor the player’s immediate feelings, from the highs of winning to the despair of a long losing streak. In the case of the latter, the machine would automatically begin paying out, lifting the punter’s spirits and keeping them playing (albeit losing) for an extended time. The technology could also build a valuable profile of the various players, sharing if from machine to machine. ‘Oh, here comes Bob again, he’s good for four to five hours of play and always seems resigned that he’s going to blow the lot.’
As AI becomes more and more common, in the dystopian future that awaits us all, the possibilities are horrendous. Imagine for example if the Star’s thousands of machines, along with all of the others in the State, transformed into an army of self autonomous Daleks. Running riot throughout the streets of Sydney, they would often lie in ambush, ready to fleece you of everything you owned as they extracted all of the cash and credit cards from your wallet. You could not even visit the toilet at Town Hall Station without the possibility of one of these marauders lurking in the cubicle. Hand it over – or it’s EXTERMINATE!