Tasmanian poker machines in state’s poorest communities

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Tasmanian politicians to debate gaming reform bill

Poker machines in Tasmania are littered across the state’s poorest communities, a new report has revealed.

The Advocate reports that across Launceston, pokies are embedded within four areas deemed to be some of the most socio economically disadvantaged suburbs in the region.

The socio economic ranking comes from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and is called the Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage, or IRSAD.

Suburbs and local government areas are then given a ranking out of five and a percentage of advantage.

The Launceston LGA was ranked two with a percentage of 24.

There are 366 poker machines spread about Launceston at an average of 5.6 machines for every 1000 people.

While a majority of those machines were concentrated in the suburb of Launceston, 34 per cent of machines spilled over into exclusively lower socio economically rated suburbs.

Rocherlea, the most disadvantaged suburb in Launceston, received a ranking of one out of five and one per cent.

Despite the status, there were 30 poker machines within the suburb at a rate of more than 27 per 1000 residents.

Ravenswood, Mowbray and Kings Meadows were the only other suburbs in which poker machines were located, with each of them ranked one-out-of-five for socio economic advantage.

Burnie poker machines spread matches Launceston

In nearby Burnie, the story is similar.

Across the LGA, there are 110 poker machines, all of which are condensed to the suburbs of Burnie and Upper Burnie.

Their socio economic ratings were two and one respectively.

In Burnie, there were an average of 134 poker machines for every 1000 residents.

Conversely, one of the most affluent regions in Northern Tasmania, West Tamar, had a significantly reduced concentration of poker machines with a rate of 2.9 pokies for every 1000 residents.

Across the LGA, the story was different, but the lower socio economic rated suburbs in the region were home to the most pokies.

Exeter and Beauty Point, two of the lowest ranked suburbs in the locality, were home to 35 of the 65 pokies in the whole LGA.

The remaining 30 were in Riverside, which was ranked three-out-of-five with a percentage of 55.

Harm from pokies analysed in new study

The latest Social and Economic Impact Study of Gambling in Tasmania, prepared by the University of Adelaide and released in June by Tasmania’s Treasury and Finance Department, showed the trend was echoed across the whole state.

“Sixty per cent of hotel and club electronic gaming machines are located in the 13 most socio economically disadvantaged LGAs, which contain just under 44 per cent of Tasmania’s 20-and-over population,” it said.

“There is a clear inverse correlation between socio-economic status and per adult expenditure on gaming machines across LGAs. The available evidence supports the view that spending on gambling through EGMs tends to be higher in regions with lower levels of economic and social resources than in more advantaged areas.”

Tasmania’s gambling legislation, particularly that which relates to poker machines, is slated to be introduced into the Tasmanian lower house at some stage in 2021.

It is understood that is likely to be after the state budget is released in the last week of August.

Debate has raged about the best way to approach poker machines and their potential harm on people with gambling addiction.

The Future of Gaming legislation was first submitted for public consultation by the state government in February 2020.

Cabinet minister Sarah Courtney did not directly address the correlation between disadvantage and poker machine location.

“We know that we have some of the strongest harm minimisation measures in Australia. Further, we know that the legislation and the policy we are taking to parliament does put in greater revenues for the government,” she said.

“But importantly, that provides us with the opportunity to be able to invest more into our community and more into the community service levy, so that we can ensure that we are helping Tasmanians that need it.”

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