Tasmanian government will not delay the reopening of poker machines

Call to delay Tasmania's reopening of pokies shot down

A call to delay the reopening of poker machines in Tasmania until the impact of their closure during COVID-19 has been evaluated has been firmly shot down by the Premier.

Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb said it would be irresponsible to reopen the gaming rooms as scheduled on Friday in light of recent interstate experiences which saw a spike in pokie losses when venues reopened.

"Pokies were switched off on March 23 and since then Tasmanians saved over $42 million - that's close to half a million dollars per day available for families to meet living costs," Ms Webb said.

Ms Webb said evidence from New South Wales, the first state to restart pokies earlier this month, showed that even with 40 per cent of machines turned off to meet social distancing requirements, pokies losses had increased.

"The industry's own data reveals the first seven days of June saw NSW hotels record a shocking 31.3 per cent rise above June last year and 31.3 per cent above March," she said.

She called on the government to bring forward the next Social and Economic Impact Study of gambling in Tasmania to provide an understanding of the COVID-19 circumstances and inform next steps.

Victorian anti-gambling advocate and former pokies addict Carolyn Crawford, who was jailed four years ago for stealing $400,000 from her employer to fuel her addiction, said there would an influx of addicts to venues once gaming rooms reopen.

"The biggest problem will be some people have saved their money and they have extra money now to go and play. And they will," Ms Crawford said.

"If I was still a pokie player, I'd be itching to go back just to drown my sorrows if I was fed up with being at home or if I'd lost my job.

"Unless people have got help during that shutdown period they most likely will go back. It's an addiction and it needs to be treated as an addiction."

But Premier Peter Gutwein said delaying the reopening of poker machines was not something he was considering.

"There will be COVID-safe plans in place," Mr Gutwein said.

"The vast majority of Tasmanians gamble responsibly and at the end of the day can make their own decisions about the money in their pocket."

Federal Group executive general manager Daniel Hanna said when gaming rooms in pubs and clubs and Tasmania's two casinos reopened extra safety measures would be in place.

"Gaming rooms at Country Club and Wrest Point will reopen with every second electronic gaming machine operating," Dr Hanna said.

"Machines will be sanitised after each customer has finished using them and capacity restrictions per room are in place.

"There won't be any poker but we will have some table games open with limits on the numbers of players and constant sanitisation between players.

"Keno and TAB facilities will also be up and running, with changed procedures around betting slips and the use of pencils."

Dr Hanna said regulated venues had more safety nets than online gambling platforms, with AlphaBeta research showing the rate of online gambling in Australia has increased 130 per cent during the pandemic when pubs and casinos were forced to close.

This story Call to delay Tasmania's reopening of pokies shot down first appeared on The Examiner.