Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER FOR FINANCE, Mr FERGUSON
We often hear you and the Premier try to justify your immoral gambling policy by saying the number of people gambling on poker machines is in decline. While this is true, the amount of money spent on pokies remains relatively unchanged. Between August last year and August this year, Tasmanians lost $205 million to poker machines. Fewer Tasmanians are losing more of their money to these machines. The amount lost by each player has considerably increased.
Will you agree with the evidence, including the most recent social and economic impact study, that recreational pokies play is in decline but problem or at risk gambling is not? One question, no layers to it.
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Clark, the Leader of the Greens, for her question. I share her concern for people who are gambling addicts. That is why the Government, through the existing legislation, has some of the strongest harm minimisation measures in the nation. As I outlined in this House on Tuesday, the trend, on evidence from the most recent, fifth social and economic impact study (SEIS) done on gambling in Tasmania, which was released mid last year, shows that gambling was on decline in Tasmania.
Ms O'Connor - No, it showed that the number of people playing is in decline.
Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, order. You have asked the question. The minister is allowed to answer it, please.
Mr FERGUSON - I will share with the House again: that report showed that gambling participation in Tasmania was down to 49 per cent. Expenditure on electronic gaming machines (EGMs) was down. That is my advice. The proportion of Tasmanian adults classified as problem gamblers was also down to 0.4 per cent. From my memory, I believe the previous figure was more like 0.6 per cent.
The study is a comprehensive one with a number of elements, including a prevalence survey of 5009 people, data analysis and modelling, and engagement with key stakeholders in the community through a number of forums. A further summary reads as follows: 'The survey found that 0.4 per cent of Tasmanian adults were classified as problem gamblers.' This compares with 0.6 per cent in 2017 and 0.5 per cent in 2013. Gambling participation, I am advised, is continuing to decline. It is down to 49 per cent, which I mentioned. The previous figure was 59 per cent, in 2017.
In relation to EGM expenditure, which Ms O'Connor asked me about, my advice is that that has also fallen by 15 per cent since the fourth SEIS. You mentioned $205 million -
Ms O'Connor - August last year, August this year.
Mr FERGUSON - The figures I have to hand, comparing the fourth SEIS with the fifth, it has fallen by 15 per cent, down from $204 million to $174 million. That is information I have to hand. However, while the interest in the question is around EGMs -
Ms O'Connor - That is the most recent expenditure data I gave you.
Mr FERGUSON - the advice is that the most common gambling activity in Tasmania was lottery tickets, at 37 per cent of adult Tasmanians participating -
Ms O'Connor - False equivalence.
Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, order.
Mr FERGUSON - followed by Keno at 17 per cent, instant scratchies, 11 per cent, and EGMs at 9 per cent. Further, that Tasmania has the lowest per capita expenditure on gambling of all the states: $733 per adult compared with the Australian average of $1277.
I am not attempting to cover up Ms O'Connor's and my shared concern for problem gambling. That is a problem in our state. That is not contained to EGMs. In fact, EGMs and gambling regulated under the gaming act, which is the subject of an order of the day, of course, is that they have protections other forms of gambling do not have.
Ms O'Connor - It is not working. They lost $205 million in the last year.
Mr FERGUSON - Ms O'Connor, it has been put to me recently, very eloquently, that you can quickly lose more money on your couch than in a licensed venue in Tasmania. That being the case, you need to get a more well rounded view of gaming and gambling products, and the regulation that needs to go around those -
Ms O'Connor - Right, you lecture us on gambling.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, order.
Mr FERGUSON - Noting that this side of the House has a strong appetite for improved harm minimisation in our regulations here in Tasmania, in a significant development to the House, on Tuesday I outlined a draft direction the Government will be making to the liquor and gaming commission. I provided a copy of a draft of that direction for the benefit of members. I hope that you have had a look at it, Ms O'Connor. You will find initiatives in that draft direction that not one other member of this House has called on me to do.
Ms O'Connor - The Tasmanian Hospitality Association has.
Dr Woodruff - You and Dean Winter have signed up with what Steve Olds wants.
Mr FERGUSON - I look forward to the debate. I will take that interjection for what it is worth. There is an initiative in that draft direction that no member outside this Government has called on me to do, nor the industry, and it is in there for members to observe and look. I respect the different points of view on this. Different parties have gone to the various elections on this issue with different positions and there is a clear history on that which I will not take the obvious political point on right now.
We have been clear that we are not just meeting our election commitments, which Tasmanians voted for not once but twice, on legislation that we consulted on not once but twice -we will go further. I look forward to that debate because I share with you, Ms O'Connor, despite where we will vote, a concern for harm minimisation. Unlike you, Ms O'Connor, we will actually do something about it, unlike when you were in government.