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Updated October 21, As Sharon Hollamby was committing an armed robbery, she realised she had become someone she no longer recognised. After an accident left her unable to work, garden and be active, Ms Hollamby began to struggle with mental illness that fed into a debilitating addiction. The first time she tried the pokies, she was not even planning to gamble. At the pub with a friend, Ms Hollamby bought a drink and was given two one-dollar coins in change.

A bit of a win on the first play, then her accident, led to an addiction that took over her entire life. Ms Hollamby eventually pulled herself out of the addiction with the help of a psychologist and through speaking about her struggles at support groups.

She went on to co-found Communities Against Pokies inand now co-runs support group G-link. She wishes the judge who heard her case after the armed robbery had banned her from pokies for the rest of her life.

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That's disgraceful," she says now. They're dangerous, they're destroying communities, they're destroying society," Ms Hollamby said. Like Pavlov's dog, who learned to salivate at the sound of a bell, pokie machine players learn to associate reward with the sound of the machines, gambling researcher Dr Charles Livingstone says.

Reinforcement is almost constant," he says. Cultural anthropologist Dr Natasha Dow Schull says the brain activity associated with gambling addiction is almost identical to that of substance addiction.

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They associate addiction with substances that are inhaled or put into the body. Australia has more thanpokies throughout the country and it is the poorest communities who have the most machines and lose the most money.

That money goes to clubs, pubs, casinos, companies like Woolworths and Coles who own machines, and to governments, which rely on pokie taxes for 5 to 8 per cent of their state-raised revenue.

First posted October 20, If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content.

Read about our editorial guiding principles and the enforceable standard our journalists follow. Activating your phone's camera in an emergency is fast becoming as instinctive as dialling triple-0 — is it legal?

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real life; news life; Gambling to extinction: What pokies are really doing to Australia. ROSS blew hundreds of thousands of dollars and lost everything he cares about. Bad Bets Australia is launching its first state-wide gambling reform campaign, in Tasmania. The “Pokies Out: Tasmania” is designed to highlight the harm caused by. Following are some key facts about gambling, online and offline, in Australia.

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