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Tasmanian treasurer denies Apple Isle has a pokie problem

Sat, Apr 1, 9:22am by Staff Writer

During the most recent public hearing on gambling reform held by Tasmania’s parliament, Treasurer Peter Gutwein rejected the prevailing view that pokie play in the state poses a problem.

Appearing in March in front of the Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets, Gutwein outlined the Liberal government’s agenda for addressing pokie machine operation after 2023 – when the state’s exclusive license with pokie manufacturer Federal Group ends.

Gutwein testified alongside Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman – author of the ‘Liberal Government Post-2023 Gaming Structural Framework’ – which lays out a plan to reduce the number of pokie machines in the state by 150 from the current total of 3,680.

Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Mike Gaffney, who serves as the committee’s chair, asked Gutwein why the reduction would remove only 150 machines, and not 1,500. Gaffney couched the query by referring to evidence introduced to the committee in recent weeks, including data linking Tasmanians to gambling addiction at inordinate rates compared to Australians in other states.

Gutwein responded by asserting his own view – one shared by Hodgman and the Liberal government – that most pokie players gamble as a leisure activity, citing findings found within the 2011 Social Economic Impact Study (SEIS):

“My personal view is that the vast majority of people are able to gamble responsibly. Even the SEIS, and I note your concerns with sample sizes, does indicate the vast majority of people are gambling responsibly,” he said.

“What you are talking about is removing a choice for many people who are responsible. My sense is that the vast majority of people are quite able to gamble responsibly.”

Last year, Tasmanian pledged to end the state’s longstanding pokie monopoly, which has been controlled by Federal Group for over 40 years. The company currently maintains each of the up to 3,680 pokie machines found in Tasmanian pubs and clubs, and has since 1973.

At the time, Hodgman and Gutwein introduced the Liberal plan for post-2023 pokie management, drawing immediate criticism from opposition parties for allegedly going soft on pokie reform.

Citing the Liberal party’s long history of accepting campaign contributions from Federal Group,

Greens party leader Cassy O’Connor specifically cited the Liberal proposal’s lack of sufficient pokie removal figures while offering withering criticism:

“What we’ve got out of the Treasurer today, who should possibly be thought of as Treasurer Peter Gutless, is an absolute sham of a plan that will do nothing to reduce the number of poker machines in pubs and clubs.”

The joint committee was formed in August of last year to address the escalating row, listing among its terms of reference the establishment of public hearings to invite community feedback on post-2023 pokie placement.

Beginning on February 7 of this year, the joint committee has held six public hearings, including the most recent on March 22. Those hearings – which will continue throughout the next six months – have produced nearly 150 submissions of testimony and evidence from community members, industry stakeholders, and gambling experts.

MP Andrea Dawkins of the Tasmanian Greens spoke to the psychological effects of pokie play on addiction-prone players:

“(Pokies) psychologically trick people into considering they are having a good time when we know they are simply losing money,” she said.

“I do not think you can measure high intensity electronic gaming machines against any other form of gambling on the planet and say this is a reasonable and legitimate and fair form of gambling, when it is very clearly not.”

The joint committee has set a deadline of September 30, 2017 to deliver a final report on its findings.

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