Preventing and reducing gambling harm
Anglicare has more than 20 years’ experience delivering services to help people harmed by gambling.
We have a long history of research and advocacy about gambling harm. We have provided evidence to State and Federal policy-makers, and to the gambling industry, about measures to prevent and reduce gambling harm.
It is our view that good gambling policy prioritises public health.
For this reason, special attention must be paid to poker machines, due to the significant evidence of the harms associated with this product.
Gambling harm is a public health issue because it impacts the health, finances, relationships and security of Tasmanians and their families. Harms include relationship and family breakdown, alcohol and drug use, anxiety, depression, poor health outcomes, financial hardship, and crime. Family members, friends, employers and colleagues are also affected.
Anglicare recommends the following public health measures to help prevent and reduce the gambling harm caused by poker machines.
Some simple changes would help Tasmanians keep more of their money.
- a mandatory card-based pre-commitment system
- reduce the maximum bet to $1
- reduce the maximum cash input to $20
- slower spin speeds (6 seconds)
- prohibit ‘losses disguised as wins’
- mandatory staff intervention when harm is occurring (similar to the Responsible Service of Alcohol).
- Reduce the number of poker machines operating in the state, especially in lower socio-economic areas
- reduce the hours of operation for poker machine venues (open 12 hours maximum).
Offer help early
- Invest in advertising about gambling harms and promotion of financial health and wellbeing
- offer free support to people harmed by gambling.
Empower local communities
- Extend the Community Support Levy (CSL) to include casinos
- allocate 100% of the CSL to activities that support people not to gamble or to gamble less
- require all venues to consult with the community by regularly scheduling the Community Interest Test to seek input from local people about the number of poker machines in their area.
Poker machines in Tasmania - Key facts
Poker machines were introduced into Tasmania’s casinos in 1986 and into pubs and clubs in 1997, without community consultation.
The Tasmanian Government plans to introduce legislation to license poker machines to individual pubs and clubs, as well as the two casinos, through to 2043.
- Poker machines take around $500,000 from Tasmanians every day
- At least 27,000 Tasmanians have a gambling addiction or are ‘at risk’ gamblers
- People can lose up to $600 per hour on poker machines
- 1 in 3 Tasmanians know someone seriously harmed by gambling
- At least 40% of the money taken by poker machines is from people with a gambling addiction
Frequently asked questions
How many poker machines are there in Tasmania?
- Tasmania has 3,530 poker machines.
- 1,185 are in the 2 casinos
- 2,345 are in 94 pubs and clubs
- There are also 36 poker machines on the two Spirit of Tasmania vessels
How are poker machines rigged to win?
Poker machines are computers designed by psychologists and mathematicians to ensure that, over time, the machine always comes out on top.
- $5 can be bet every 3.5 seconds
- On average, with each press of the button, the machine keeps about 15% of the bet amount.
- On average you can lose $40 in just 4 minutes, or $600 in an hour.
How many people are addicted to poker machines in Tasmania?
Tasmanian Government studies state 2,000 Tasmanians are seriously harmed by gambling. They gamble 3 or 4 times a week resulting in average yearly losses of $14,000.
A further 21,000 Tasmanians gamble weekly and lose $3,000 or more each year.
The vast majority of Tasmanians harmed by gambling are using poker machines. Polling shows that 1 in 3 Tasmanians personally know someone who has a serious problem gambling on poker machines.
What about online gambling?
Although online gambling and sports betting is growing, the total money spent remains significantly lower than what is spent on poker machines. While there are high-profile cases of young men experiencing harm from sports betting, 70% of people seeking help for gambling say they are there because of poker machines.
Good public policy and consumer protection is important for all forms of gambling. Regulation of online gambling happens at a Federal level. Regulation and licensing of poker machines happens at a State level.
What happens elsewhere in Australia?
Most states in the world do not permit poker machines in their communities.
Western Australia – an interesting case study
In Western Australia, poker machines are only permitted in their casino.
While gambling in Western Australia and Tasmania is at a similar level (each between $600 and $700 lost per person to table games, pokies, Keno, lotteries and lotto), 70% of Tasmanian losses are to poker machines. Regular use of poker machines exposes people to a higher risk of addiction.
In contrast, 70% of the losses in Western Australia are on forms of gambling that cause few problems such as lotto and Keno.
Tasmania has a faster poker machine spin speed of 3.5 seconds compared to Western Australia’s 5 seconds. This makes people lose money faster.
Western Australians spend less of their household disposable income on gambling than Tasmanians.
What about other countries?
Australia ranks sixth in the total number of poker machines by country, behind Japan, USA, Italy, Germany and Spain, all of which have much bigger populations. On a per capita loss basis, Australia is only behind casino resort destinations such as Monaco and Macao.
Eight American states do not permit poker machines, while some allow them only in casinos. Two of Canada’s 13 provinces have banned poker machines altogether. In the UK, poker machines in pubs and clubs have a maximum bet limit of less than AUD$2 (Tasmania allows $5) and maximum payout of less than AUD$200 (Tasmania allows up to $60,000). In New Zealand the maximum bet limit is AUD$2.35 and maximum payout AUD$939.
The UK also limits the number of poker machines in regional casinos to be “not more than 5 times the number of gaming tables used in the casino”. If Tasmania followed this approach there would be 120 machines in Wrest Point instead of 650, and a maximum of 80 in Launceston’s Country Club Casino instead of 535.
Compared to other places where poker machines are permitted in community venues, Tasmania has higher bet limits and higher maximum payouts. This makes Tasmanian poker machines more “volatile”, meaning there is a higher degree of risk and greater unpredictability. Volatility in machines is linked to higher likelihood of addiction.