Can it be right that one family rakes in millions from a state's pokies?

The Australian Institute recently reported that just one Sydney family gets 54 times more pokies revenue than all of Tasmania’s clubs combined.

The report, called Estimating the revenue share of gambling industry in Tasmania, also estimated the cost of the Tasmanian economy of gambling harm at more than $341 million per year.

“The clubs and hotels are not getting much, and neither is the taxpayer. The Farrell family are reaping $19.4 million more than the Tasmanian government,” Leanne Minshull, the director of the Australian Institute Tasmania, says.

The new research showed Tasmanian clubs keep just 0.9 per cent of its pokies revenue, while the Farrell family, which owns a monopoly license over the machines in Tasmania through its company Federal Group, gets 49 per cent.

Pokies were introduced into Victoria (and I presume Tasmania at the same time) in a blaze of glory. No real thought was given to how it would impact on people. Nobody envisioned the need for restrictions that were already in place in New South Wales.

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The scramble by the pubs and clubs was an undignified bid for easy revenue-raising products. Had this been thought through, and the New South Wales model been examined carefully, the gaming problems created would have been at least limited to a few venues that required a membership to access.

People used to go on day trips to the border. The border towns did really well with bus loads of people coming from all directions (ACT was also a late comer to pokies), but that was limited access. There was nothing to compare it with.

The Australian Institute report highlights that most of the gambling harm is “borne by individual gamblers, their spouses, children, other family, friends, employers and other community members via crime and health costs”.

As the report’s author, Charles Livingstone of Monash University, says, “Gambling harm is not trivial. It includes domestic violence, other violent crime, theft, fraud, embezzlement and other crimes against property, neglect and abuse of children and other dependents, mental and physical ill-health, financial disaster, and suicide. Most of these harms are most strongly associated with poker machine gambling, because it is so readily accessible.”

(The Labor Party in Tasmania has proposed getting ride of pokies in pubs and clubs in the state of 2023, which the Federal Group says could leave more than 2,000 people jobless if it decides to pull out of Tasmania as a result. To ease the blow to the Farrells, Labor proposes paying the family business $55 million in compensation.)

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With the amount of human devastation uncontrolled gaming has caused, can it be right that a single group of people can reap so much of the spoils?

What do you think about the impact pokie machines have had on the Australian way of life? Have you ever played the pokies?

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