Tasmania will be worse off by reopening poker machines says The Australia Institute

Tasmania worse off by reopening pokies, says Australia Institute

A report by think tank The Australia Institute has found reopening poker machines for Tasmania would have a negative impact on the state.

This follows a call by Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb on Tuesday to delay the reopening of poker machines until the impact of their closure during COVID-19 had been evaluated.

Premier Peter Gutwein confirmed on Wednesday gaming rooms and casinos would be able to reopen from noon on Friday.

In its report, the AI said in Tasmania only 17 per cent of licensed venues were gambling venues and of those businesses say only 19 per cent of staff work directly in gambling roles.

"You don't need to be a statistician to realise that spending $50 on a meal at a restaurant creates more labour activity from the grower of the food, to the chef, to the server, than people spending five minutes putting $50 into the slot of a poker machine," it said.

"Spending in the local economy on goods and services other than poker machines has a higher rate of return for job creation."

The AI said given the state's budget and the impact, both social and economic, of COVID-19, reopening pokies represented a net financial burden to the state.

"The costs to Tasmanians of pokies-related problem gambling, has been estimated as high as $153.3 million, in 2011 dollars. This far exceeds the state revenue from EGM-related gambling taxes and fees, which was $48.7 million in 2019," it said.

Anglicare Tasmania runs a Gamblers Help Service which current provides support to about 120 clients and their families.

Anglicare general manager housing and community services Noel Mundy said the organisation had no concrete evidence it would see a spike in people needing help once poker machines reopened.

"We just don't know the impact but we will certainly working with our current clients to support them," Mr Mundy said.

"It's hard to quantify at this stage but certainly our staff are very aware of the reopening and we will be going out to talk to venue owners about the risk and self-exclusions people can put on themselves.

"One of the things we haven't been able to do during COVID is to be able to get out and do community education firstly about how to identify signs of gambling addiction and the effects."

Mr Mundy said a survey of a small cohort of Anglicare's clients showed a couple had switched to online gambling but there had also been several "good news stories" including someone saving up $500 for emergencies and a person buying their first vehicle.

"We are anticipating because there has been a three month break people may not go back as quickly but there's no doubt poker machines are addictive," he said.

"Gambling doesn't discriminate - it's an issue that affects people across all age groups, gender and social demographics."

Mr Mundy encouraged anyone whose life had been affected by gambling who needed support to reach out to the Gamblers Help Service.

"It's a free and confidential service available statewide that is staffed by trained counsellors who are here to support and encourage you," he said.

Tasmanian Hospital Association chief executive Steve Old said it was disappointing Ms Webb continued to criticise poker machines as the THA worked with the government to get the industry back on track.

"Estimates have put the switch to online gaming as costing the Australian community many millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to overseas interests yet Ms Webb would rather a legitimate, legal form of entertainment run in the most regulated regimes in the world which employs thousands of Tasmanians be closed down," Mr Old said.

  • Anglicare's Gamblers Help Service: 1800 243 232
This story Tasmania worse off by reopening pokies, says Australia Institute first appeared on The Examiner.