The latest Tasmanian Gaming Commission figures putting poker machine revenue at its lowest level in five years is very good news.
A raft of government reforms, not to mention the unprecedented publicity in recent years about poker machine problem gambling, is kicking in. The Tasmanian experience reflects the trend nationally where poker machine revenue has been in decline for more than a year.
Crucially, the increased focus on poker machine problem gambling has also served to reduce the stigma of such behaviour and resulted in increased rates of people seeking counselling.
A big challenge now is to prevent the Federal Government from overturning the poker machine reforms of the previous parliament, and in particular that poker machines are to be made mandatory pre-commitment ready. The Government has promised to repeal the reforms which would be a shocking betrayal of Australia’s almost 100,000 poker machine problem gamblers and the countless people they affect.
Moreover there continues to be no interest at federal and state level for implementing the Productivity Commission recommendation of $1 maximum bets.
Another challenge is to put in place better safeguards to protect the new demographic of online problem gamblers. The Federal Government’s apparent commitment to not liberalise the Australian online gambling industry is a good sign. But the recent industry commitment to tone down advertising during sports broadcasts is too little, too late and only voluntary. Pre-commitment arrangements for online gamblers are also only voluntary.