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Government pokies “reform” is business as usual. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

By August 9, 2021No Comments

The Independent Member for Clark, Kristie Johnston, today lodged a submission with the Government as part of its consultation on the future of gaming in Tasmania.

“The Government’s so-called reforms miss the point entirely,” Ms Johnston said.

“It claims the new policy, to create individual venue licences for poker machines and to tinker around with the tax rates and fees, will create a sustainable industry and maximise returns to Tasmanians.

“Nothing could be further from the truth as the fundamental problem with poker machines in Tasmania – that they are dangerously addictive and capable or ripping thousands of dollars out of gamblers in a short period of time – has not been addressed at all.”

Ms Johnston said the changes merely redistribute the super profits amongst the poker machine industry players without the punter on the ground noticing any difference at all.

“Without real and effective harm minimisation measures, the poker machine industry in Tasmania is not sustainable morally, socially or economically. The Government is either fooling itself, or us – or both – as it tries to argue otherwise,” Ms Johnston said.

In her submission, Ms Johnston outlined the major deficiencies in the Government’s vision for pokies in Tasmania:

  • Intolerable stress on families, increased domestic violence, debt-related self-harm and suicide, and crimes of dishonesty that are associated with gambling addiction will continue.
  • The poker machines cap reduction from 2,500 to 2,350 is a conjuring trick, as the current number of machines sits at 2,305, meaning another 45 can still be added to the fleet.
  • The cost of pokies, including prison, bankruptcy, depression, violence and lost productivity, is estimated independently to be over $100 million every year. This is a dreadful return on investment as only $50 million is collected in taxes and fees.
  • The network monitoring monopoly should not be handed to a private sector operator, particularly not to a business like Federal with an interest in the outcome.
  • There is no future point at which all agreements end to allow for the pokies regime to be re-evaluated. The licences can be traded with a new 20 year lease rolled-over at transfer, meaning the industry can continue, effectively, in perpetuity.
  • There is no guarantee that the Community Support Levy will concentrate counselling and support programs in suburbs at highest risk of gaming addiction.
  • It appears that the Federal Group will benefit from a significant tax cut on their casino poker machines.
  • Hotels and clubs will certainly receive a windfall gain in the capital value of their businesses because of the individual venue and machine licences they will receive.

Ms Johnston said that Government claims that Tasmania’s harm minimisation framework it has currently is regarded as “best practice”, is preposterous.

“To my knowledge there are no credible, independent harm minimisation researchers that would support that claim. In any event, if the Government’s current measures are so “best practice” then, given the social misery they cause, they clearly aren’t working and need to be changed. The measures I propose that will help break the addiction cycle are:

  • $1 maximum bet limit per spin (currently $5);
  • slower spin speeds, at least six seconds;
  • set maximum jackpots to $1,000 (instead of $25,000);
  • increase the return to player to 95% (currently 85%);
  • disallow sounds/message responses that disguise losses as wins;
  • disallow false near misses;
  • introduce regular machine shut-downs to provide breaks in play;
  • limit opening hours for gaming venues.

“None of the aims of the Government’s policy are genuinely achievable without real and effective harm minimisation measures. That’s because, as long as the industry’s business model is rooted on exploiting addicted gamblers, it can never be sustainable on any financial or social measure. So it’s business as usual – blatant wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. Tasmanians loses at all levels: financially, socially and morally.”

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