The much-debated Tasmanian government’s pokies legislation will soon be signed into law after it passed the state’s upper house.
The new legislation allows venues to own or lease their own poker machines, starting mid-2023. This move effectively ends the Federal Group’s monopoly on gaming in the territory.
The new rules also significantly reduce the applicable tax rates paid by the Federal Group on poker machine earnings at its two casinos by almost half.
Five members voted against the bill while eight cast their votes in its favour. The legislation will now have to be returned to the House of Assembly for final approval.
Ms Forrest, an opposing member, expressed concerns about the legislation, saying,
“A well-regulated monopoly would have been a better proposition, his bill fails to deliver effective harm minimisation measures. I cannot support it, I’m surprised if others believe they can.”
Mr Valentine, another nay-sayer felt that the bill was unfit to be signed into law.
“It is not what I believe the majority of Tasmanians want. The bill fails, in my humble opinion. It is what it is, but it won’t have my name on it”, he said
Upper House Approval and Dissent
Another independent MLC, Ms Webb, spoke out strongly in favour of the inclusion of harm minimisation measures in the bill.
She expressed disappointment at the result of the vote but conceded that she appreciated that the upper house had carefully considered the legislation.
“I’m disappointed, particularly on the measures of harm minimisation. We’ve got a lot of doubt about the impacts of this bill still remaining for us,” she said.
The bill went through several amendments as the debate raged on. The most notable agreement reached was that all venue licences would expire on July 1, 2043, regardless of their date of issue, enabling future governments to more easily amend the legislation.
The deputy Labor leader, Anita Dow, said that Labor had “worked very hard” to ensure that the bill integrated harm minimisation measures that were absent from the government’s bill.
“We’ve made those decisions based on feedback that we’ve had, consultation with stakeholders and we’ve been very clear about those positions from the outset of that legislation coming before parliament,” she said.
The Deputy Premier, Jeremy Rockliff said the debate had been a thorough process.
“The Government believes it does strike the right balance and it’s important also that there [is] harm minimisation work that needs to be done as well. We recognise we need to support people with a gambling addiction. I want to ensure that we have the right programs that are accessible in place, I want to ensure there are campaigns to discourage gambling and gambling addiction,” he said.
This development signals the end of a long-running status quo, headed principally by a family-run Federal Group, whose gaming monopoly has spanned over 5 decades.