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Gambling reform in Tasmania is too important not have bipartisan support

Rev Tim Costello

17 Feb 2024

If Tasmania successfully progresses with its plans to introduce a cashless pokies card, it will represent a 'gold standard' in reducing gambling harm.


It's a move that is critically needed in Tasmania.


Data prepared for the Alliance for Gambling Reform by Monash University revealed that in the 22/23 financial year, Tasmanians lost $189.6m to pokies. As predicted, these losses are still elevated post-Covid, more than 10 per cent higher than in 2018-19, and close to half comes from people experiencing or developing a pokies addiction.


Now, more than ever, Australia needs this reform, which evidence shows will effectively reduce the terrible harm caused by addiction while not affecting the recreational use of poker machines.


Australia loses more than $25 billion every year to gambling. Polls show gambling and gambling advertising is actually on the nose with everyday Australians, but such is the power of the industry to lobby our political leaders. Major reform has always been blocked.


If Tasmania successfully introduces the cashless poker machine card, it will set an important precedent for other states and territories to follow. It will be a groundbreaking reform that Tasmanians can be proud of.


But because the stakes are so high, the closed-door lobbying of Tasmanian parliamentarians has hit overdrive.


Tasmanian Treasurer Michael Ferguson has pledged to roll out this nation-leading proposal in all hotels, clubs and casinos by the end of this year.


However, the Opposition has never clearly stated that this positive reform has bipartisan support.


Undoubtedly, the industry will work hard to undermine support for the pokies card.


Under the proposal, players can set daily loss limits of up to $100, monthly limits of up to $500 and annual limits of up to $5,000, which can only be set higher should the person have a proven capacity to afford it.


Once the limit is reached, the player must wait until the next period starts before playing again.


These are reasonable reforms.


For those who lose, the financial impact devastates families and communities. It has an enormous health and welfare impact, including, in some cases, leading to suicide.


I have attended the funerals of six people who took their lives out of shame due to their gambling on poker machines.


All efforts to reduce gambling harm in Australia are fought bitterly by the gambling industry. That's not surprising; their business model generates profits from people's financial losses.


But such reform in Tasmania would be a significant beachhead for reform in Australia.


They are too important to fail.

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