Science backs up Ms Hollamby’s feeling of being “hypnotised” or “hijacked” by pokie machines. 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. “If you look at big poker machine venues where there are hundreds of machines, bells and whistles going off all the time, this partly explains why big venues make much more money per machine than smaller venues. 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.”Slot machines have been called the crack cocaine of gambling, electronic morphine,” she says.