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Tasmania Government Returns Lukewarm suggestions on Pokie Reform

Tue, Oct 3, 5:15pm by Staff Writer

In a final report published on September 28, following two years of research and public testimony, a Tasmanian parliamentary put forth mixed messages on the issue of pokie machine reform.

The 213-page study, officially titled Future Gaming Markets Report, was commissioned by Tasmania’s Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets.

The six-person committee included chairman and member of the legislative council (MLC) Mike Gaffney, along with deputy chair and MLC Tania Rattray, MLC Robert Armstrong, member of parliament (MP) Scott Bacon, MP Sarah Courtney, and MP Andrea Dawkins.

After reviewing 148 submissions of testimony from local community members, industry stakeholders, and gambling experts, the committee recommended a “significant reduction” in the number of pokie machines placed throughout the state.

Even so, the committee neglected to specify a timeline for such reductions, while failing to recommend any removal of machines from Tasmanian pubs and clubs.

In outlining the committee’s investigative approach, MLC Gaffney – who serves as an Independent – hewed closely to the middle ground which lies between outright pokie prohibition and current policy:

“It is important that Government carefully considers all of the findings and recommendations and importantly take into account all of the views on the future of gaming in Tasmania, which includes a substantial reduction in the number of EGMs in Tasmania.

Considerable evidence presented to the Committee reinforced the notion that because of the harm created by EGMs, the machines should be confined to Casinos and the TT Line.

However, a recommendation supporting a ban on EGMs from hotels and clubs failed to gain support from the majority of the Committee.”

The report concluded that the local gambling industry in Tasmania generated $311 million in revenue between 2015 and 2016 – with $96.4 million sent to the state government’s coffers via taxes, licensing fees, and penalties.

In the report’s Chairman’s Foreword section, MLC Gaffney observed that the financial incentives – which account for just 1 percent of Tasmania’s state income – were outweighed by the societal impacts of problem gambling:

“Gambling is acknowledged by some as a recreational pastime, even part of ‘the Australian way of life.’

It is appreciated that many forms of gambling stimulate economic, employment and business activity in our communities.

However, after considering testimony from social organisations, community groups and those affected by problem gambling, it must also be recognised that the impacts of gambling, especially EGMs, for some individuals, family members and the wider community can be exceptionally damaging.”

The committee pledged to “revisit” the figure of 150 pokie machines currently slated to be removed from circulation – as per the Hodgman Liberal Government post-2023 Gaming Structural Framework – without offering any logistical details.

Predictably, both sides of the pokie density debate expressed displeasure with the report. Two members of the committee – Liberal MP Sarah Courtney and Greens MP Andrea Dawkins – submitted dissenting reports which align with their parties’ respective positions.

MP Dawkins called for the complete removal of pokies from local pubs and clubs, along with additional harm minimization measures including $1 betting limits.

Conversely, MP Courtney rejected any calls for increasing planned pokie removals, referencing the “devastating economic and employment impacts” such reforms would have on Tasmania’s local communities.

John Stubley, a spokesman for the Community Voice coalition, told that the committee failed to heed the calls of its constituency.

Stubley referenced a recent ReachTel poll which concluded that 81 percent of Tasmanian residents support downsizing the pokie industry:

“Evidence presented to the Committee in submissions and in person during hearings was overwhelmingly in favour of removing pokies from Tasmania’s pubs and clubs.

This is just one step in the long process of realising Tasmanians’ vision of a return to pokie-free communities.

Tasmanians are ready and asking for change.”

The Federal Group, which currently controls a full monopoly on pokie operations throughout the state, rebuffed problem gambling claims by stating “it’s half of 1 per cent of the adult population.”

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