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Greens Matter of Public Importance - Gambling Harm

12 September 2019

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, the Greens spoke to thousands of people during our campaigning over the last election, including people who signed petitions on this issue. We doorknocked extensively on the issue of getting pokies out of pubs and clubs before the 2018 state election and it was a principal concern for the people we spoke to. Every single person who signed a petition or answered a door and spoke about their concerns about gambling will be looking at what the Treasurer and the Government does when this legislation is introduced next year. They will also be looking at the Labor Party and will not forget, and we will not let them forget, that Labor walked away from a commitment to getting pokies out of pubs and clubs. It was a commitment that was based, as was the Greens, on rock-solid evidence about the harm that is done on a daily basis to thousands of people in Tasmania - their children and their families, the ripple effect across the poorest communities in Tasmania.

The Government has an opportunity to move away from the monopoly deed, a special deal that was never supported by people in Tasmania. People never wanted this situation to move out of the casinos and into pubs and clubs. It was campaigned most strongly against when it was first discussed and the Federal Group first made their move on Tasmania as a business interest for them to invest in and to milk, as they have done for the last decade. We cannot move towards individual venue licensing until 2043 and that will give an extra 23 years to a predatory company to milk Tasmanians who are the most disadvantaged and desperate.

The business model for electronic gaming machines is based on addiction and has been meticulously designed by large companies in the United States and other countries, where thousands of people put their everyday effort into designing gaming machines to make them as addictive as possible. They admit openly that their technological advancements are designed to increase player participation and therefore increase the losses to the individual and the gains to the company that owns the machines. In a patent filed in 2016 a company openly stated that a significant technical challenge is to improve the operation of gaming apparatus by making them yield a negative return on investment in the long run and yet random and volatile enough to make players feel they can get lucky and win in the short run. They do this by a series of ploys, including progressive jackpots, bonus games and free spins, all designed to mislead people, such as using symbols that appear on reels more times than they are likely to occur and shamelessly employing opportunities to use multimedia displays that give people an opportunity to multitask by watching movies or using other gambling streams at the same time. It is frightening. The techniques that are being investigated by companies that are part of the new surveillance industry that we are all exposed to through our mobile devices. The Treasurer is right when he says there is deep concern about the availability of gambling on electronic devices on phones, on laptops, in places ubiquitous in society.

That is not what we are here about. That is not what Tasmanians want. They want to end electronic gaming machines which are actively placed in pubs and clubs in the poorest communities in Tasmania. These are the communities where there are higher concentrations of people who are disproportionately at risk; people with a childhood history of physical and sexual abuse; people with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Isn't that frightening? There are galloping rates of anxiety and depression, increasing rates in young people. It is truly frightening to think that young people might employ an electronic gaming machine in times of desperation as a way to remove themselves from the emotions and emptiness they are feeling and their anxiety in their life.

People with mental health disorders, particularly anti-social personality disorder and attention deficit disorder, these people are so vulnerable. PTSD-affected veterans are also vulnerable and the shame of RSL clubs that use electronic gaming machines. They are addicted to the supply of income that comes from their own people, the people they are ostensibly there to represent, but instead they are using them as a vehicle to keep a club open. To what end?

If we pull back and look at the situation, these machines are designed to addict, to take money from the poorest people, to drive people to the brink of despair and then over the edge. With them as they fall down and lose their house, lose their job and lose their relationship, they take all the people who love them and who they love, with them.

This results in suicide, in family violence and it results in extreme mental health issues. The irony is that there are members in the Government who are deeply concerned and advocate about these issues. Why, if we pull back, would we not take this opportunity to remove a scourge on this island which we can do something about.