Published: 24 November 2021

Independent MLCs broadly supported these measures as being evidence-based ways of decreasing harm to problem gamblers without impacting recreational players, and to allow venues to implement them by 2028.

Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest said she did not understand why the major parties would not support it, and that there was no guarantee of further harm minimisation by 2043.

The harm that these people experience is enormous in terms of the cost to our health system, to our social services system, to our justice system, that's where the costs are," she said.

"Yes, I've seen people lose their homes in my electorate. I've seen people's lives destroyed in my electorate. Surely we can do better this.

"Surely we can agree on a harm minimisation measure that's effective, proven, not going to end the world as we know it, where is the government's soul and moral compass on this? Where's the opposition's moral compass on this? Completely absent.

"I'm ashamed."

Dr Seidel said it was "nonsense" that the measures could not be implemented.

"The evidence is crystal clear, there's no dispute. They are the two measures you want to legislate for if you are serious about protecting vulnerable people from the harms of gambling," he said.

The latest social research on gaming in Tasmania - released in June - outlined that only 6 per cent of recreational gamblers often bet more than $1 a spin, compared with up to 37 per cent of problem gamblers.

Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb said the data showed that recreational players would not be impacted by lowering maximum bets and slowing the spin speed.

Her amendment would also allow the two measures to be considered in the review of the mandatory code, to occur next year. This was rejected by the Liberals and Labor.

Instead, the measures can only be considered if the minister wants them to be.

Liberal leader of the House, Leonie Hiscutt, said there were "four-and-a-half pages" of harm minimisation already in place in Tasmania.

"Prescriptive measures of this nature do not belong in the Act," she said.

"The government is looking to improve harm minimisation through investigation of how to implement facial recognition, card-based gaming and pre-commitment, and does not believe that this amendment is at all required and that the commission should be allowed to do its work before considering other options."

The Gaming Commission will be directed to look into facial recognition and card-based pre-commitment by the middle of 2022.

The laws return to the lower house where they will be approved.

The original bill would have allowed the 20-year timer on poker machine licenses to be reset when purchased or transferred resulting in "staggered" licenses, but the upper house agreed to an amendment for them all to expire in 2043 when it can be reconsidered again.

The Examiner, 24 November 2021


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