I don’t much like poker machines. (I’m more of an Xbox 360 fan.)
Not for a moment do I think that my own preferences should necessarily dictate what other people do for fun or a flutter.
However, most thinking Tasmanians agree that we’re way off track with pokies in casinos, pubs and clubs. I venture the opinion that most if not all families in this state have been somehow negatively affected by someone who has been ensnared by these suburban gambling machines. I doubt the cost to the community in damaged lives, ruined careers and broken families can ever be calculated.
Yes, we can all agree that there should be limits set. So the question is: just where should that line be drawn?
A quick bit of history: In 2003 this compromised, tired Labor government generously and secretly signed up Federal Hotels to extend its licence:
For 20 years to 2023 (based on a 15 year renewal of the agreement due to expire in 2008)
Total number of machines set at 3680 for the state (one for every 84 people of gambling age, one of the highest of any region in the world). source, James Boyce
For this FAQ I will disregard financial returns to the state – except to point out that there is significant evidence that the Labor government, while thoroughly addicted to gambling revenue, allowed the state to get ripped off.
My position is negative toward pokies because of the harm I know they cause to the Tasmanian people and their special design features to prey on human vulnerability. Is taking food off the family table really the best way to build our state revenues?
Fair enough, not all pokie players are problem gamblers but our approach as a community should be mindful that many users are completely lost in a false reality and unable to pull themselves out.
I want to see pokies scaled back over time – no later than the current expiry date of 2023. They should be removed from small suburban venues where they prey on human weakness in secret atmospheres and certainly restricted to the two casinos. I’ve also got some ideas on introducing accountability for users to “protect me from myself”.
I’m very heartened by Will Hodgman who has put poker machines and concerns about problem gambling on the Liberals’ agenda in 2009, and he has committed to act, and will consult with all stakeholders, to work out a better outcome for the Tasmanian community.
All this can and should be done in such a way that has regard for the financial viability of pubs and clubs.
But let’s remember: when we’re choosing the right policy settings, the people we should be most concerned for are … ourselves.