Last month, a Tasmanian joint select committee released its report on the state’s future gaming markets.
With Federal Group’s exclusive rights to poker machines due to expire next year (with any change to come into effect in 2023), the committee was tasked with examining future policy options and the aspirations of the Tasmanian community in regards to poker machines.
The committee process took more than one year to complete, taking into account 148 submissions and 12 days of public hearings.
The final report, released in September, culminated 72 findings and 23 recommendations in a 200-page report, and went on to recommend there be a “significant reduction” in the number of poker machines in Tasmanian pubs and clubs.
Tasmanians lose about $110 million each year on poker machines pubs and clubs.
Expert evidence was presented to the committee about the purposefully addictive design features of poker machines and the significant level of harm caused by these machines to Tasmanian families and communities.
Evidence was also presented that 80 per cent of Tasmanians don’t believe their suburbs benefit from poker machines and want less of them or their complete removal from local venues.
An independent economic analysis was also presented to the committee demonstrating that the removal of poker machines from Tasmanian hotels and clubs would provide a boost to the State’s economy and create hundreds of new jobs.
Last week, Tasmania’s Legislative Council addressed the report, with many members taking the opportunity to call for the removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs across the state.
Take a look at a summary of what MLCs said when noting the report in Parliament last week:
Mersey independent MLC Mike Gaffney, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Future Gaming Markets:
- “There is evidence to suggest that expenditure on EGMs does not bring new economic activity to Tasmania; it simply replaces existing activity.”
- “It should also be noted that there is a distinct difference between people having a flutter on the Caulfield or Melbourne cups or buying a regular Saturday night lotto ticket compared to an individual who sits for hours and hours in front of a pokie machine, constantly feeding it with money in the hope of a sizeable return.”
- “Many members in our community and some of the committee were firmly of the view that the social harm imposed by ready access to EGMs, particularly in lower socioeconomic areas, significantly outweighs the benefits they provide.”
- “If we are able to show that EGM reform is possible and beneficial, it may pave the way for similar reforms across the nation.”
Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest:
- ” the person could bet a dollar and that game could provide a win of 30 cents, which is actually a loss of 70 cents that the person did not get back. The 30 cents is celebrated on the machine with lights and sounds and great excitement as if the person has won money, when they have actually lost money.”
- “I despair when we get an issue which straddles political boundaries, but we cannot move on because of political games.”
- “I hope we find a sensible way forward, despite the despair that envelops us all.”
McIntyre independent MLC Greg Hall:
- “I have never been a great fan of poker machines. Many years ago, I thought they were best left in the two casinos instead of being proliferated around the community.”
- “On the one hand there are obvious benefits of amenity, activity, employment and revenue. On the other hand, there is a level of social harm which is disruptive and can be distressing.”
- “I think it could cause a lot of disruption to some small businesses and enterprises in rural Tasmania to remove these from pubs and clubs.”
Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine:
- “One responsible EGM gambler’s feeling of enjoyment and anticipation, unfortunately for a problem gambler is a different sensation.”
- “It is a fair and reasonable thing to have the interest test again when the licence is up for renewal.”
- “I think members would have to agree that is generally what governments should be doing – trying to improve people’s lives, but not when it comes to pokies for some 30 per cent of the punters.”
McIntyre independent MLC Tania Rattray:
- “We have to have a balance about what we believe drives the state of Tasmania.”
- “I struggle with the fact that because there is a problem in a particular area, or a number of areas, everyone has to fall in line.”
- “We now need to do what we can to put in the most effective harm minimisation measures we possibly can as a community and support them. We also need to acknowledge that they are an economic driver as well.”
- “We want to make sure we can manage what we have in our communities, but also provide the support necessary for people who find themselves in
difficult and challenging circumstances.”
Huon independent MLC Robert Armstrong:
- “You can see there is a lot of enjoyment for people in different areas and scenarios. I do not deny there are people with gambling problems.”
Montgomery Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt:
- “This consultative process is a first for the gaming industry in Tasmania.”
- ” The government has already put forward its position regarding a number of key structural features of the future gaming industry.”
- “The government is now actively considering the other issues raised in the committee’s report.”
Elwick Labor MLC Josh Willie:
- “Working as a teacher in the community, you are exposed to family stories of problem gambling and you observe hardship. It is incredibly sad when children are involved.”
- “We are talking to pub owners, licensees, employees, other small businesses and community members in the context of the recommendations and the evidence from the inquiry.”
- “The Tasmanian people want us to get this right.”
Windermere independent MLC Ivan Dean:
- “Poker machines do not enthuse me in any way whatsoever.”
- “If you continue to play them, they are programmed so that you lose your money. They are not programmed so that you win.”
- “It is the people who can least afford to lose the money who are losing the money.”
To find out more, read:
- Anglicare’s submission to the committee
- Removing poker machines from hotels and clubs in Tasmania: Economic considerations
- Pokies: A time to be brave
Take action! Sign and share the open letter to the Premier calling for local suburbs to be free of poker machines: www.pokiescauseharm.org.au