Australian state inquiry wants reduction, not banning of pokies

Tasmania pokies inquiryA parliamentary inquiry has come to a compromise regarding poker machines in the Australian state of Tasmania.

The Future Gaming Markets Report, released on Thursday, details electronic gaming machines (EGMs) are “a recreational pastime, even part of ‘the Australian way of life’”.

It states that while gaming revenue contributes to one percent of state revenue, financial revenue to the Tasmanian government is significantly lower when compared to other Australian states and territories.

The report also reveals that $96.4 million of the $311 million in gambling revenue between 2015 and 2016 went to the government in the form of taxes, fees, penalties and levies.

As a result, the inquiry report recommends reducing the number of pokies in pubs and clubs, instead of removing them completely.

Several of the 150 submissions, submitted to the inquiry, recommend a complete ban on poker machines in Tasmanian pubs and clubs.

Chairman of the Joint Select Committee, Mike Gaffney, said that “after considering testimony from social organisations, community groups and those affected by problem gambling, it must also be recognised that the impacts of gambling, especially EGMs, for some individuals, family members and the wider community can be exceptionally damaging.”

“However, a recommendation supporting a ban on EGMs from Hotels and Clubs failed to gain support from the majority of the Committee.”

The report also recommends the government review the number of machines it has already promised to remove, stating that removing 150 of EGMs is insufficient.

Liberal MP, Sarah Courtney, and Greens MP, Andrea Dawkins, filed dissenting reports against the recommendations.

Ms Dawkins said the committee failed to thoroughly consider evidence, which “overwhelmingly supported the removal of EGMs from hotels and clubs in Tasmania”.

She made three additional recommendations including limiting poker machines in Tasmania to $1 bets.

Ms Courtney’s dissent, on the other hand, rejected the plan to reduce the number of poker machines.

She said a “significant” reduction in the machines “would have devastating economic and employment impacts” on the community.

Federal group pokies monopoly

The report also addresses the issue of the family-owned Federal Group holding the exclusive rights to all of Tasmania’s poker machines, which it has had for more than 40 years.

The licence will expire in 2023, and while the state government has already promised to allow a public tender, the report recommends any future exclusive licences “should not be in perpetuity”.

The committee made 23 recommendations in regards to the Federal Group which were “agreed to by majority decision”.

The report recommends the Federal Group should maintain its casino licences in Tasmania, and any future casinos should be limited to “high-roller non-resident” ventures, similarly to Barangaroo in Sydney.

According to the ABC, MONA’s casino development set for the Berriedale site benefits from the restrictions.

Other recommendations include;

  • Funding for targeted community support levy programs should be regularly reviewed, including an evaluation of their effectiveness
  • A cost/benefit analysis for casinos to be undertaken by the government before any additional licences in the state are approved
  • The casino-based gaming products in Tasmania should be reviewed against the product range allowed in other states and territories
  • If a tender process is not followed, then the Federal Group, as the sole licensed operator of Keno in the State, should incur an increase in the tax rates payable

Tasmanian Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, said in a statement that the government would consider the report’s findings.

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