Tasmania Government Accused of Backtracking over Pokies Change

Flag of the Australian state of Tasmania

30-second summary

  • Tasmania has an issue with gaming machines (pokies)
  • They are highly addictive and are a massive drain on gamblers’ funds
  • The Labor Party was previously taking a hard stance against these pokies
  • However, they are under fire for doing a U-turn in their stance since losing the election

Claims against the government

Video poker and slot machines have long been a tumultuous issue in Australia and the border regions. Commonly known as pokies on that side of the world, these gaming machines are very addictive. They are found in varying types of establishments, including bars and restaurants.

The Labor Party in the Australian state of Tasmania is now under a lot of scrutiny. The leader of the Labor Party, Rebecca White, is receiving a lot of criticism for backtracking on the party’s stance on pokies.

Previously, she took a very tough stance on these machines. Her party was pushing for the removal of these video poker machines from clubs and pubs. However, since losing in the March 2018 elections, the party is backtracking on this stance.

The current premier, Will Hodgman, is in negotiations about issuing new licenses for these machines.  This new deal will be in place until 2043. Hodgman has accused White of backtracking on her stance. It is likely that her fellow party members are behind these efforts.

The premier said: It’s a little ironic that Rebecca White, who said this was a most passionate interest of hers and a concern that she believed in, has now abandoned that policy position and is calling on us to rush through legislation to implement a policy that they opposed at the election.”

Reaction to this backtracking

A lot of the party members and supporters are not happy with the change. Even following the election defeat, White was saying that they would not give up the fight. However, now opposition parties, such as the Green Party, are using it as a stick to bash them with.

They are asking: If the Labor Party cannot stick to their supposed opposition of gambling, how can people take them seriously if they get back into power after the 2022 elections?

There is currently a monopoly on video poker machines. The Liberal Party was looking to end this monopoly, which is held by the Federal Group. It would see a sharp decrease in the number of allowable machines outside of casino establishments.

Currently, about 2,375 pokie machines are operating in the region. However, pokies are starting to become less popular in the area. Therefore, a lot of politicians may simply be using this issue to discredit their political opponents.

A recent survey of people in Tasmania shows that they now prefer to gamble online rather than at physical establishments.

Issues with pokies

While online gambling is becoming more and more popular, pokies are still a major source for revenue for Australia and its relevant regions. In the province of Victoria, for example, residents lost over $2.7bn (£2.1bn) through pokies during 2018.

This was a new record, passing the previous loss of $58m (£45m). Many are calling for new rules for these machines. They want to follow a similar approach that taken in the United Kingdom, where the maximum bet on fixed odds betting terminals is going to be lower from £100 ($128.76) to £2 ($2.58).

There is a call for the max stake on pokies to be $1 ($1.29) and for making the gameplay less addictive, as well as limiting the hours in which people can access these machines.

Talking about the problems with pokies in Victoria, Alliance for Gambling Reform Director Tim Costello says: It has now been 14 months since the Victorian parliament passed legislation issuing new 20-year pokies licenses and Victorians have suffered the biggest losses in history over that period. The major parties should be ashamed of themselves for working together to increase losses at a time when the community is calling for political leaders to tackle Australia’s world record levels of gambling losses.”

This approach, if it limits the potential damage of pokies, will likely be seen across Australia. Many are hoping that the fight against pokies in Tasmania can be re-started.