Tasmania pokies closure results in $4m in punters’ pockets

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Tassie treasurer allegedly lobbies for pokies group

The closure of poker machines in Tasmania due to the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a $4 million reduction in gambling losses in the month of March, compared to the same time last year.

The Examiner reports the new figures, from the Tasmania Gaming Commission reveal losses of $9.09 million in March 2020, compared with $13.3 million in March 2019.

This is equivalent to $663,000 a day less for the eight day period of closure.

On an annual basis, Tasmanians gamble about $470,000 a day on poker machines.

Coronavirus measures closed pubs and clubs and casinos on March 23 resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector around the state.

The figures coincide with a strenuous debate over poker machines between the Tasmanian Hospitality Association.

Independent anti-pokies campaigner Meg Webb, greeted reduced gambling losses of about $17 million over the past five weeks as good news because it would allow households to spend more on essentials.

The Tasmanian Hospitality Association called for Ms Webb to apologise to employees who lost their jobs and accused her of protecting friends who made a living from line gambling.

In a letter to The Examiner, Ms Webb said she had no connection at all, financial or otherwise, to online gambling interests.

“Quite frankly, it is astonishing to see the pro-pokies lobby in this state throwing around accusations of vested interests or cosy arrangements for financial backers,” she said.

Ms Webb said it appeared she had hit a nerve on pokies’ harm.

“I will not stop highlighting the harm caused by poker machines, which is a reality for tens of thousands of Tasmanians,” she said.

“Losses to pokies in Australia is ten times higher than for online gambling.”

Police called to Wrest Point in Tasmania

A 57-year-old woman is alleged to have repeatedly breached coronavirus quarantine rules in Tasmania.

The Examiner reports that police were called to Wrest Point Casino in Hobart on Saturday after staff claimed the woman had left her room to smoke and breached a coronavirus public health law.

It was also alleged the woman was abusive to staff and police warned her to comply with quarantine rules.

Police were again called to Wrest Point on Sunday in relation to the woman and she was charged with two counts of failing to comply with the directions of the Director of Public Health.

She was bailed and returned to her room to continue her quarantine.

Wrest Point lights up in blue for Tassie hospitality and tourism

The iconic Wrest Point Casino tower has been transformed into a beacon of hope amid mass job losses at the site and elsewhere.

The Mercury reported in March that corporate affairs general manager of the Federal Group, which owns and operates Wrest Point, Daniel Hanna, announced the company would stand down 1500 of its 1900 staff in the wake of the Federal Government’s stage on coronavirus restrictions.

At about 7.30pm on Tuesday, the company lit up Tasmania’s tallest building blue as a sign of solidarity for the state’s entire tourism and hospitality industry.

“Yesterday we faced the darkest day in Federal Group’s history,” the company wrote in a message to its current and former workforce.

“Tonight, our iconic Wrest Point tower will be lit blue as a beacon of hope and solidarity.

“We do this for our team, for the 38,000 Tasmanian tourism and hospitality workers impacted by yesterday’s shut down and for our community.

“We know the worst may still be ahead of us, but we will keep the lights on until the threat of coronavirus has passed and we all arise more connected, more resilient and more committed than ever before.”

In a media statement, Mr Hanna said Federal would also meet with its bank on Tuesday evening about pausing payments for electronic gaming machine lease arrangements, which would immediately be passed on to its now closed pokies venues.

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