Tasmanian political parties stay put on gambling policies

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Tasmanian political parties stay put on gambling policies

As the Tasmanian election campaign is in full swing, neither major party has committed to making changes to poker machines ahead of harm minimisation reforms set to come before the Parliament in late 2021.

The Examiner reports that both major parties have pledged to improve harm minimisation strategies as part of its reform package, by doubling the Community Support Levy, which is a percentage contribution from poker machine winnings that is fed back into the community.

Half of this fund is given to local sporting clubs and charities, with the other half set aside for gambling research, community education and gambling support services.

Independent MLC Meg Webb, a former pokies harm researcher in the state, has highlighted the need to alter the highly addictive and rapid spending nature of the machines by slowing down spin rates or reducing maximum bets for poker machines.

In 2018/19, almost 80 per cent of Tasmanians who accessed gambling help services were due to poker machines, an increase of 71 per cent from 2013/14.

When asked if spin rates or bet limits would be altered, a Liberal campaign spokesperson said Tasmania’s harm minimisation framework was “already regarded as national best practice and that will not change.”

Premier Peter Gutwein said the industry was already adequately regulated and that “people can sit on their couch, they can bet online and they can lose their house”.

“The poker machine industry, gaming lounges we have, are highly regulated with trade personnel in them,” he said.

Labor leader Rebecca White said they had not put forward specific examples like spin rates or maximum bets, but would instead work with the community sector and industry in developing its harm minimisation approach.

Since January 2020, Tasmanians have lost more than $180 million on poker machines, based on the latest data from the Liquor and Gaming Commission, including a three-month period when pokies weren’t operating.

The Greens have maintained a policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs.

Leader Cassy O’Connor saiad the Community Support Levy would not stop harm.

“It will give more funds to research into why they shouldn’t be in communities and to organisations who have to mop up after life-shattering damage is done,” she said.

Launceston pokies spend on the rise

The pokies spent by residents of Tasmania’s second largest city, Launceston, remains the highest in the state, with residents spending about $1.5 million a month in the city’s machines.

In March, pokies players in the city’s venues spent $1,484,906 on the gaming machines, second only to the city of Glenorchy, whose residents put $1,699,436 into their city’s machines.

Government data released last Friday showed that Tasmanians have spent $159 million in the state’s 97 poker machine venues since coronavirus restrictions eased.

That figure includes money spent on gaming machines in the state’s two casinos and aboard the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, though the individual city figures do not.

Their spend remained north of $1.5 million per month until November, when it dropped to $1,377,285, and it has been hovering steadily between $1.3 million and $1.5 million in the months since.

Third highest in the state was the city of Devenport, where players have also routinely spent more than $1 million per month in the city’s poker machines since July.

None of the other municipalities in the North West have figures close to the amount spent in Devonport, though the city does also have the largest population in the region.

Central Coast had the region’s second highest spend in March, with $613,257 fed into poker machines, while Burnie residents spent $578,679 in the same month.

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