Published: 14 September 2020

The government's Future Gaming Market policy, which should finally see the light of day this parliamentary session, includes, among others, two aims:

  • to ensure returns from the gaming industry are shared appropriately among the industry, players and the government representing the community; and
  • to continue to minimise harm caused by problem gambling

The industry and the government defend their lack of appropriate regard for problem gamblers by saying ad nauseam that problem gamblers comprise but a tiny proportion of overall society.

But that's like saying that COVID only badly affects a small number of people. The point is those who are badly affected suffer dire consequences as the aged care crisis has demonstrated. It's the same with problem gamblers.

A significant number of regular players become problem gamblers who account for almost half of overall player losses, which lead to a cascade of social and economic problems. We owe a duty of care to problem gamblers in exactly the same way as we owe a duty of care to those vulnerable to COVID.

Players should also receive a more appropriate return as the government's stated policy provides. A more appropriate share could be done by reducing prices (lowering the house percentage, in other words the expected player loss on each spin of the EGM), reducing spin rates and removing the built-in addictive features designed to entrap problem gamblers.

The government also intends to allow the Federal Group an extension of its sole licence to conduct Keno, subject to a suitable tax rate. What is a suitable rate? Keno, for all intents and purposes, is a type of lottery. Lotteries attract tax rates of 80 per cent here in Tasmania and across Australia. Our current Keno tax rate is only six per cent. In South Australia, for instance, the Keno tax rate is 41 per cent, which is payable into a Hospital Fund.
The Tasmanian community is not getting an appropriate share of returns from Keno. The lion's share goes to the Federal Group, which pays almost all after tax income as dividends to interstate shareholders.

Let's all work towards ensuring the government pays more than just lip-service to its stated policy.

The Advocate Monday 14 September, 2020

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