Tasmanians lose big as pokies reopen

by William Brown Last Updated
Tasmanians lose big as pokies reopen

Tasmanians lost a record $18 million in August playing poker machines, latest figures reveal.

The Mercury reports that the massive surge comes as machines were switched on for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of the state’s entertainment venues.

Treasury figures show that a 20 per cent increase in expenditure at poker machines was noted on Tasmanian machines in August, compared to the same month last year.

A total of $18,554,436 was lost on electronic gaming machines, compared to $15,476,406 in August 2019.

Independent candidate Meg Webb said the state government didn’t assess the potential social and economic impact of reopening gaming venues, prior to doing so in June.

Ms Webb blasted the state government for its “negligent and careless attitude” towards vulnerable Tasmanians with a gaming addiction.

The Treasury and Finance Department’s decision on her right to information request was proof that social and economic impact assessments were not undertaken before the government lifted its virus restrictions.

“This is despite the government being presented with evidence there were considerable risks other than only public health hygiene considerations should access to poker machines resume during the pandemic,” Ms Webb said.

“Despite evidence from the Global Financial Crisis experience, specific assessment of the risks were not undertaken to inform the decision.

“The Premier was warned COVID-19 would increase pressure on Tasmanians with pokies addictions and any decisions to lift access restrictions required more than only public health considerations.”

Independent MP seeks information about social and economic impact of pokies reopening

In her right to information request, Ms Webb requested details of analysis undertaken in relation to potential social and economic risks of reopening pokies venues and the effect renewed pokies access could have on the “intent and effectiveness” of JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments.

“As this was a decision taken by the Department of Health to allow the reopening of poker machine gaming rooms, Treasury does not hold any relevant information to actively or otherwise disclose in relation to analysis or stakeholder consultation,” an RTI officer said.

A government spokesperson said gaming venues in the state were reopened on health advice, just as other types of venues were.

“Tasmania’s harm minimisation framework is regarded as one of the leading in Australia and includes the Responsible Gambling Mandatory Code of Practice for Tasmania, which has been in place since 2012.”

Federal MP alleges disabled woman gambled away money at Tasmanian pokies venue

Meanwhile, independent federal member of Clark Andrew Wilkie shared the case of an intellectually disabled woman who lost her “food money” in a poker machine at the Elwick Hotel in Glenorchy this week.

Mr Wilkie was joined by Salvation Army Glenorchy City Corps officer Jeff Milkins, who said the woman had told him she had “put her food money into a machine and it didn’t come back out.”

“Thankfully she was only allowed $5 that day,” he said.

“She was so upset she lost her food money. We fed her, calmed her down, made contact with her carer and made sure she headed home.”

Mr Wilkie said the pokies industry was “ruthless and predatory.”

“To learn that the industry would stoop so low sets a new low,” he said.

Federal Group executive general manager Daniel Hanna cited the office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in saying it was discriminatory to “refuse access to a person based on their physical or mental impairment.”

“The commission’s Equal Opportunity Tasmania website specifically states it is illegal to discriminate against a person with disability in a hotel or pub,” Dr Hanna said.

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