Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On parental responsibility - and that of society...

As an ancillary to my previous post there was a little gem on the news last night which quite literally had me looking for my gun.

But a little background first.

New Zealand has a gambling problem. Well, to be honest we have two gambling problems.

The first is the number of opportunities there are for gambling. When I was a kid you had the races (government controlled through the Totalisator Agency Board), the Golden Kiwi Lottery (again government controlled), and Bonus Bonds. Then someone decided we needed casinos in order to attract tourists to NZ, and to give them somewhere to spend their money. After all, every tourist wants to go to a casino don't they!! So millions were spent on building casinos, including that horrendous phallic symbol in the centre of Auckland. But that wasn't enough. So many locals wanted greater gambling opportunties, particularly for fund-raising for sporting clubs and kindergartens and the like so the Government changed the law to make pokies legal in virtually any and every public space where one or more can be squeezed...

The second is the people who gamble. A number of years back I worked as accountant in a factory with about 25 staff. Come Christmas Eve and the holiday pay (for the next three weeks) was handed out. Fifteen minutes the later the carpark was empty. The boss shook his head sadly and said "All but about three of them will have nothing of that pay left by tomorrow." Come three days later he was back at work, giving out loans to staff who had nothing to live on for the next two and a half weeks. That is not an unusual occurrence. It would be close to a universal.

So,. to the item on the news the other evening... that link will likely expire in the next week. There is nothing on the Herald - yet.

One of Auckland's "poor" areas is the suburb of Otara. It started life as a major government housing scheme. A large proportion of the population are dependants of the state.

A new "games arcade" for the kids was started up about three months ago. Last night's item on the news centred on three new "games" that had been installed recently. Set amongst the shoot-em-up, the hit-and-run, the normal games of the kids of these days were three pokie machines. They were not your casino standard, but were somewhat simplified for the kids to run. According to the reporter there were two different "games", one of which gave a monetary "win" in the form of tokens that could be exchanged for soft drinks or similar. While the camera was filming, one of the players (a kid who looked every day of about 12) won a $5 token. After getting their film, the reporters contacted the regulating agency for gambling in NZ, and the importers of the machine. At the end of the report they returned to the arcade and these machines had been removed. What spoil-sports are they!!


Right, now to fill in a bit more of the background -

Probability one - the parents of these kids were either at work (filmed at about 4 p.m.) or they were in one of the local bars playing the pokies.

Fact one - from the programme. The regulating agency did not know of the import or availability of the "kids pokies".

Probability two - the parents neither knew nor cared where their kids were, nor how they obtained the money for their games.

Fact two - from the programme. The kids playing the machines wanted more of them because "they are easy to beat". They proceeded to show the reporters how to win from the machines.

Now, is anyone getting the feeling that there is something wrong in this picture? No, it is not that the nanny state is responsible here. Well not directly anyhow. It is not the "failure of welfare" because there is equal chance or better that both parents are in paid employment. It is not entirely the failure of the parents as they are (very probably) unaware of what their kids are doing.

But, at the same time, is it right that kids as young as 10 or 7 or even 5 should be getting "training" in the use and "benefits" of gambling machines?

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