People playing poker machines don’t expect to win and consider it no different to going to a movie, a hospitality group representative has told Tasmania’s gambling inquiry.
A joint select committee, holding public hearings on the Government’s gaming policy, was considering the future of Tasmania’s poker machine industry along with the economic and social impact.
On the table is a proposal to end Federal Group’s monopoly licence to operate electronic gaming machines across the state, the inclusion of a community interest test for new machines, and lowering the cap on how many machines can operate.
The Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group told the inquiry that people who play pokies “don’t expect to win”.
Greens MP Andrea Dawkins quizzed the group’s David Curry on whether gamblers thought they’d win when using the machines.
“Do you think they understand that generally they’re not going to win? she asked.
Mr Curry said people did not expect to make a win.
“I don’t think people generally expect to win when they play but what they are doing is buying a form of entertainment,” he said.
“They are enjoying that form of entertainment, it’s no different to me going to the movies – whether it’s a good movie or a bad movie – and buying an ice cream.”
Tasmanian author and historian James Boyce urged the committee not to ignore the state’s two casinos in the debate on whether pokies should exist in pubs and clubs.
Mr Boyce has written a book on the pokies, which is due to be released soon.
“I would plead with you to look at the issue of the casino,” Dr Boyce told the committee.
Mr Boyce said as soon as the casino was licensed to operate high intensity poker machines in 1994 it turned into a “giant pokies barn”.
“They need to be treated as poker machine venues.”
He said the regulation of poker machines was failing vulnerable people, and there was a “tale of two Tasmanias”.
“We have this vibrant growth with many things happening in Tasmania, and many people benefiting,” he said. “But we have this large group being left behind.”
Fears pubs could go broke
Meanwhile, Dixon Hotel Group director Peter Dixon told the committee pubs in regional areas would struggle to stay viable without the revenue from poker machines.
“We speak from the heart on this, I’ve had 40 years in this industry and have invested in country areas and I can tell you the vast majority of our places would be broke without the pokies,” Mr Dixon said.
“You get into the areas where we deal like Scottsdale, New Norfolk, Longford, Exeter, George Town – most of those venues haven’t seen a tourist.”
Mr Dixon’s group operates 35 pubs, 30 of which are in regional Tasmania.
“The bottom line is they are doing in tough, pokies aren’t a big part of the business but that helps us buy.”