The Parliamentary committee established by the Hodgman Government to investigate the future of Tasmania’s gaming markets has unfortunately missed its chance to show strong leadership on the contentious issue of poker machine reform with the release last month of a lack-luster report.
The concentration of pokies in low socio-economic areas, preying on those most susceptible to the false hope of a quick win, should be a concern to all Tasmanians. It is something that government should show strong leadership on curbing for the betterment of communities throughout Tasmania.
ACL’s submission to this inquiry urged the committee to regard:
“the hidden social costs of gambling as far outweighing the quantifiable financial gains that accrue from the current gambling arrangements … [to] prioritize the protection of the vulnerable Tasmanians over short-term profits and to demonstrate that the best interests of the Tasmanian community are its highest priority.”
Sadly, the Committee was unable to reach a majority decision even on whether poker machines should be phased out from hotels and clubs in Tasmania but instead suggested a significant reduction in overall numbers.
Some might suggest that the inquiry was simply going through the motions of community consultation. While acknowledging “the impact of gambling is significant and certain communities in Tasmania appear to have been disproportionately affected by gambling addiction and access to numerous Electronic Gaming Machines within local venues”, the Committee has disappointedly presented a collection of lack-luster recommendations, which are unlikely to change the industry or reduce the harm pokies inflicts on families.
The committee recommendations suggest Federal Group casino licenses should be extended, but not in perpetuity. The state government has already indicated it would be putting the licence out to public tender post the 2023 renewal date, thereby breaking the Federal’s long held poker machine monopoly.
The report suggests a sliding scale of progressive tax be introduced for poker machines in Hotels, Clubs and Casinos, subject to their ability to support these increases.
Essentially it appears the cash cow that is addicted Tasmanian gamblers will continue to be milked as much as possible in order to not reduce the income stream for the state.
Of most concern, the significant negative impact problem gambling has on thousands of Tasmanians, including children, appears set to continue on past 2023.
Click here for the Committee Report
ACL's submission to the Committee