Tasmanian Government could unveil its future gambling bill in Parliament in a couple of days, with the debates on the proposed piece of legislation expected to begin on October 14th.
In August 2021, the Government received a total of 26 submissions to the exposure draft of the proposed bill, called the Gaming Control Amendment (Future Gaming Market) Bill 2021. Furthermore, a consultation paper on gaming amendments gathered a total of 68 submissions before the aforementioned piece of legislation was even drafted.
The proposed bill seeks to introduce individual operating licences for electronic gaming machines hosted in brick-and-mortar venues in Tasmania. It also seeks to impose certain tax rates on gaming revenue in the state.
With the state’s Parliament set to start the debates of the long-awaited legislation that would overhaul Tasmanian gambling laws, there has been a growing concern that local lawmakers will miss the chance to introduce stricter harm minimisation measures for poker machines, also known as pokies.
According to Premier Peter Gutwein, the proposed piece of legislation had been the most discussed one he has seen in his entire political career so far. He further noted that the bill delivered on the 2018 election policy of the Liberal Party. Mr Gutwein hopes that the Legislative Council would see that the legislation is robust and stable and it will deliver on the future plans of the Tasmanian Government.
Campaigners Seek the Introduction of Harm Minimisation Measures on Tasmanian Pokies
Although the Liberal Party has taken their gambling policy to 2 state elections – the ones in 2018 and the ones in 2021 – detailed plans regarding the changes, including the plan to reduce the tax rate on casino-based pokies by almost 50%, were not made public until a draft bill was announced in July 2021.
The legislation would put the almost 50-year monopoly held by the Federal Group on the gambling licences in Tasmania to an end, as it seeks to introduce individual operating licences for clubs and pubs that offer poker machines and to create 2 new high-roller casino licences.
Josh Willie from the Labor Party commented that it would be interesting to see whether the State Government responded to the submissions made during the second phase of the consultation. He further noted that if the Government does not consider the implementation of some harm minimisation measures, his party would do that.
The introduction and adoption of special measures aimed at reducing gambling-related harm have also been backed by the independent Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie, who is known as a long-time anti-gambling campaigner. According to Mr Wilkie, Tasmanian lawmakers need to roll out some harm minimisation measures, such as suspending the addictive features of pokies, implement a maximum bet limit of AU$1, slow down the poker machines’ spinning time and introduce stricter penalties for clubs and pubs that do not comply with the rules. He also wants to see the proposed piece of legislation examined by a special parliamentary committee before being passed by Tasmanian lawmakers.
Proposed Gambling Amendment Likely to Pass the House of Assembly
Although not all Members of Parliament back the proposed bill, the piece of legislation is likely to pass at this stage. The Tasmanian Government is expected to have the necessary numbers to give the green light to the bill in the House of Assembly.
However, the legislation’s passage through the Legislative Council is not guaranteed, or at least without some significant amendments brought to the bill. At this point, the bill will need to get the support of the Labor Party in order to proceed further in the legislative process.
Years ago, before the 2018 state election, the Labor Party in Tasmania adopted a policy aimed at removing so-called pokies from local clubs and pubs, but then abandoned this policy after losing the election. Since then, the party has promised to raise the lawmakers’ engagement with harm minimisation measures but has not revealed the exact measures it wants to see established in the state. For the time being, it remains unknown whether the Labor Party would line up with the measures suggested by other campaigners such as Mr Wilkie or would prefer to roll out their own ones.
Josh Willie MP has not revealed whether his Party would support a potential motion of the Upper House to send the proposed bill to a special committee.
Cassy O’Connor, leader of the Greens, said that the party would not support the proposed piece of legislation but would propose some amendments seeking to bolster gambling harm minimisation measures. She also revealed that a no-confidence motion in Resources Minister Guy Barnett is to be moved by the Greens.