Tasmanian politicians to debate gaming reform bill
Tasmanian politicians are on the cusp of debating much-awaited legislation that proposes to overhaul the state’s gaming laws, but there are concerns that MPs could miss the chance to introduce stronger harm minimisation measures for poker machines as part of the potential reforms.
The ABC reports the state government’s final Gaming Control Amendment Bill is expected to be tabled this week.
Despite the governing Liberal Party taking the policy to its last two state election campaigns in 2018 and 2021, the details of the legislation, including the plan to slash the tax rate on poker machines in casinos almost in half, were not revealed until a draft bill was published in July 2021.
If passed, the legislation would end Federal Group’s 50-year monopoly on Tasmania’s gambling licences by requiring individual pubs and clubs to be responsible for managing the poker machines in their own venues and creating two new high-roller casino licences.
Federal MP Wilkie has his say
Federal independent Clark MP Andrew Wilkie has called for Tasmanian MPs to vote down the bill or at the very least, introduce harm minimisation measures such as $1 maximum bet limits, doubling the time it takes to play a game, banning addictive features in machines and introducing higher penalties for venues not following the rules.
He also wants the legislation to be examined by a parliamentary committee before it is passed.
“It is not good enough that we are going to hand individual licences to all of the pubs,” Mr Wilkie said.
“It’s not good enough that we’re going to give a thumping big tax break to the casino.
“It will beggar belief if the State Parliament does not seize upon the opportunity to put in place better harm minimisation measures.”
Independent MP Kristie Johnston will be in Parliament to vote on the bill and has called on her colleagues to “put the best interests of the community first, rather than the pokies barons.”
“People in the community have been speaking very loud and clear for a number of years about the harm that poker machines cause in the community,” she said.
Upper House MP Meg Webb said there were other “massive problems” with the bill that had so far received little attention, such as the introduction of two high-roller casinos, the tax rate changes and the introduction of fully automated table games.
“All of this means we need proper scrutiny as it comes through the Tasmanian Parliament,” she said.
Tasmanian Premier confident legislation will pass the Upper House
Premier Peter Gutwein has defended the legislation as “robust and sound” with the policy having been made public almost four years ago.
“It will deliver on what we’ve set out to do,” Mr Gutwein said.
The Tasmanian government will have the numbers to pass the legislation through the House of Assembly, possibly as early as October 14.
However, its passage through the Legislative Council without significant amendment is less than assured and would require support from the Labor opposition.
Tasmanian Labor took a policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs to the 2018 state election, but abandoned the policy after losing.
The party has since promised to work to improve harm minimisation measures, but it has yet to explain what kind of measures it wants to see and whether they would line up with those suggested by others such as Mr Wilkie.
Labor MP Josh Willie would not say whether his party would support a move by the Upper House to send the legislation to a committee.
“We want to see the bill tabled in Parliament. Anything prior to that is pure speculation,” he said.
“We’ve committed to harm minimisation amendments if the government doesn’t move in that direction.”
The Tasmanian Greens have promised to vote against the bill.