Politics

Tasmania Could Be The First State To Eradicate Pokies In Pubs

Next stop NSW.

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It looks like the Tasmanian Labor Party just might have found the right words to blow up the pokies and drag them away.

The party’s leader, Rebecca White, has today announced a policy to remove all poker machines from pubs and clubs by 2023 if Labor wins the state election, which is due early next year.

The new policy includes a $55 million transition package to help remove more than 2,300 poker machines currently installed in venues across the state.

“Last year we had $110 million lost in pubs and clubs right across Tasmania communities to poker machines,” White said this morning. “Removing poker machines from pubs and clubs across Tasmanian communities will mean that money is better spent supporting local jobs. Economic modelling has shown that it could provide an additional 180 jobs in Tasmania if only half that money is spent in communities.”

The policy represents a huge shift in the political debate around poker machines. It’s the first time a major party has committed to eradicating pokies outside of casinos. The Tasmanian Liberal government wants to reduce the number of poker machines by 5 percent. The Premier, Will Hodgeman, slammed Labor’s policy and accused the part of wanting to “take jobs away”.

But the Tasmanian Council of Social Services strongly supported the new approach, describing it as “a moment when we can feel meaningful change in the air”.

Australia’s Huge Addiction To Pokies

Tasmanian Labor’s new policy announcement came on the same day The Australian Institute released a new report highlighting the sheer number of poker machines installed in Australia.

According to the report Australia has 2.5 percent of the world’s gaming machines, despite only having 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Once if you exclude Japan’s infamous pachinko parlous, we have 6 percent of the world’s gaming machines.

If you focus in on poker machines in particular, we have 18 percent of the world’s total supply of poker machines. Where the data gets even more interesting is when you look where these machines are located.

About 80 percent of the world’s 1 million poker machines are in places like casinos and race tracks. The other 241,000 are in non-gaming venues, like pubs and clubs. Out of those 241,000 machines more than 180,000 are located right here in Australia.

What all that means is that Australia is pretty unique when it comes to flooding pubs with poker machines. It might seem normal if you grow up in a state like NSW where we siphon off half of a venue’s space to the inexplicably named “VIP Room”, but it’s very, very weird compared to the rest of the world. Which is what makes Tasmanian Labor’s policy so overdue.

How Will The New Policy Work?

Before Labor can implement the policy it needs to win the actual election. There hasn’t been much recent polling in Tasmania, but the most recent numbers show Labor polling about 7 percent higher than they did at the last state election. The Greens are also up, which means there’s a decent chance of both parties getting enough seats to govern together in Tasmania’s 25-seat parliament.

If Labor does manage to win, its plan to end pokies involves $20 million in transitional support to affected businesses and another $25 million to help retrain staff.

Even though Tasmania is a small stage, the new policy is a big step forward. If state Labor can get rid of poker machines there, there’s no reason why the same steps can’t be taken in other states like NSW.


Feature image via Michael Coghlan / Flickr