By Rhiana Whitson
Removing poker machines from Tasmanian hotels and clubs would see millions of dollars flow into the state’s economy each year and create hundreds of jobs, a new report from Anglicare has found.
Anglicare has said its research into the economic implications of gambling proves restricting poker machines to casinos will bring social and economic benefits to the state.
Report author John Mangan said Tasmanians lose on average $113 million a year on poker machines in the state’s pubs and clubs.
The report estimated there are 2,000 problem gamblers, 6,000 moderate risk gamblers and 15,000 low risk-gamblers in the state.
Professor Mangan’s economic modelling assumed that people would be less likely to spend gamble money on poker machines at casinos, than at their local pub or club.
“You have a lot of impulse gambling due to proximity and if you shift it to casinos, that will drop off,” he said.
Prof Mangan’s modelling found that if 100 per cent of gambling losses from hotels and clubs was diverted it would create 670 full time jobs, and add $91 million annually to Tasmania’s gross output and add $45 million in wages, profits and dividends.
Based on the report’s most conservative estimate that only half of gambling losses would be diverted to the economy, 183 full time jobs would be created, $33 million would be added annually in gross output, $21 million in net additions to gross state product and $11 million in wages, profits and dividends.
“The money you spend on gambling is money you are not spending on anything else,” Professor Mangan said.
He also found most of the money brought in by poker machines was leaving the state through poker machine leases or to private shareholders.
Federal Group owns both of Tasmania’s two casinos, and has exclusive rights to all of the state’s poker machines under a licence set to expire in 2023.
“Leakage occurs via poker machine leases payable to lease financiers and dividends to interstate shareholders of Federal Hotels via its gaming business Network Gaming,” Professor Mangan said.
He also found the Tasmanian Government was not dependent on gambling revenue, receiving less than 1 per cent of its revenue from gambling.
Professor Mangan said that put Tasmania in a unique position to restructure the gaming industry without significantly affecting state revenue.
“Tasmania has such a small exposure in terms of its revenue has a great opportunity to change the structures of the industry which is creating social problems all across Australia,” he said.
Federal Group’s managing director, Greg Farrell, has previously dismissed evidence suggesting the majority of Tasmanians are worried about the social impact of poker machines.
State economy not hostage to gambling income
Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre manager Meg Webb said the research proved poker machines are bad for the economy.
“This is a final plank in an argument which is already robust in terms of the harms caused by poker machines,” Ms Webb said.
“This report could give our state leaders every confidence that they can make a decision about poker machines that is not only interest of the people, it is in the best interest of the economy.
“Economically, the best outcome is for us to get them (poker machines) out of our local suburbs.”
A parliamentary inquiry is currently underway to examine the Federal Group monopoly on poker machines, amid calls for more assistance for problem gamblers.
The Tasmanian Government has already vowed to put gaming licences out to public tender, which could break the monopoly Federal Group has held for over 40 years.
Federal Group has been contacted for comment.
Professor Mangan will present the findings to the State Government’s Joint Select Committee on future gaming markets today.