Government ignores public concerns over poker machines

TASMANIA’S longest serving Mayor says the State Government has seriously ignored public concerns over the community impact of poker machines.

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said the announcement by State Treasurer Peter Gutwein to essentially maintain the status quo on the number and location of Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM) in hotels and clubs was a massive disappointment and a slap in the face for the thousands of Tasmanians and community groups that were looking for real reform.

Cr Foster said the Government should have invited submissions from the community on reducing or removing poker machines in hotels and clubs.

“But it seems the Treasurer was too afraid to address the real issue and instead had apparently kowtowed to Federal Hotels and the powerful lobbyists who don’t want their interests affected.

“In doing so, the Government has ignored the clear message from the community that it doesn’t want poker machines in hotels and clubs. The losers are the Tasmanian families who have their household budgets cut by losses on the pokies.”

Cr Foster said poker machines represented nothing more than a transfer of wealth from some of the poorest in the community and an extra tax on those who could least afford it.

“The recent Anglicare research clearly demonstrates that poker machines are disproportionately located in lower socio-­‐economic areas and the Treasurer’s announcement does nothing to address this.

“This research and public polling on the issue is deeply disturbing, but the Government just doesn’t seem interested.

“I have been consistently concerned at the adverse impact of the proliferation of poker machines in our community and particularly their concentration in lower socio-­‐economic areas.

“My concern is not just about problem gambling. It is also about money being bled from local communities and this impacts on families and the community in general.

“Undoubtedly, gambling on poker machines is having significant adverse consequences for Tasmanian families, small businesses and on general economic activity.

“I, and many thousands of Tasmanians, had hoped that the State Government would act to curb this impact, but it seems big business and the lobbyists are more important than people.

“At the outset, the Treasurer has set up this consultation with the wrong starting point. Rather than ask the Tasmanian people what they want, he is telling them what he wants.

“The Tasmanian people should have the opportunity to say whether they want poker machines in hotels and clubs.

Cr Foster said this process should be providing a new opportunity for Tasmania and the first question must be whether Tasmanians wanted poker machines in their local suburbs and towns.

“Instead, the Government has taken the easy way out and I can only describe the Treasurer’s announcement as a big let down and extremely disappointing.”