Strong support for Tassie pokies reforms

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Australian gaming venue survey shows eagerness to spend on poker machines

There is overwhelming support for reforms in Tasmania while will see a reduction in the pokies maximum bet from $5 to $1.

The Advocate reports that including harm minimisation in gaming reform and taxing hotels and casinos pokies at the same rate has also received support in a recent poll conducted.

The omnibus poll of 1000 people carried out by EMRS from August 7 to 9 was consistent with past polling on support for pokies in Tasmania, but it also included specific questions on aspects of the government’s proposed reforms.

Responses were fairly consistent across the political divide, although 86 per cent of Greens voters supported the bet limit reduction compared with 71 per cent each for Liberal and Labor voters.

The polling questions were commissioned by independent Nelson MLC Meg Webb with financial support from former Liberal deputy premier Sir Max Bingham and HACSU state secretary Tim Jacobson.

The government released draft legislation for community consultation, which included a tax cut for poker machines in Federal Group’s two casinos from 25.9 per cent to 13.9 per cent and the issuing of individual licences to venues, thus breaking up Federal’s monopoly.

Poll results evidence of public’s appetite for pokies changes

The legislation did not include specific harm minimisation however, beyond the community support levy, and Tasmanians could only comment on the legislation itself rather than matters beyond its scope.

It is likely to be put before Parliament later this year.

Ms Webb said the way in which the legislation was drafted meant this was, effectively, the last opportunity the state would have to implement substantial reform to the pokies industry.

She said the poll results were further evidence that the community was expecting the government to reduce harm from poker machines as part of the reforms.

Her suggestions include reducing maximum bets, slowing the spin speed, lower maximum jackpots that pay out more regularly, increasing the return of players from 85 per cent to 95 per cent and regular machine shutdowns.

“We know those changes will work, every expert recommends them, they won’t affect people who play the machines recreationally, they won’t affect jobs, it won’t affect the amount of staffing the venues need,” Ms Webb said.

“We would see the losses go down overall, because what robust research tells us is that half of the losses that we see at the moment come from people who are addicted.

“Venues can’t make an argument that they want to hold on to profit from addiction – they consider poker machines as a ‘recreational’ product. They should be able to accept the profit from the recreational use of the machines, which is that first 50 per cent.”

The reforms provide 20-year licenses from implementation in 2023 but this 20-year timeframe could be reset if the individual licences change hands in that time – a similar situation in other states where pokies reform is difficult.

The reform bill is likely to pass the lower house given the government’s majority, but it would face greater scrutiny in the upper house, particularly if Labor opposes it.

Cabinet minister Roger Jaensch was asked about the polling results on Sunday and he said the government would consider all feedback as part of its consultation process.

“We’ve taken our policy to the last two elections, we’ve now put our draft legislation, we’re listening to what Tasmanians have to say about it, we’re confident we can get it right and have legislation in parliament by the end of this year,” he said.

The City of Launceston made a submission calling for improvements to harm minimisation.

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