Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, will join a Salvation Army Captain to reveal the Elwick Hotel allowed a woman with an obvious and severe cognitive disability to “put her food money” into a poker machine.
The revelation comes as the Tasmanian Government is set to today publish the latest poker machine losses. Last month’s figures showed a steep increase on the same time last year.
Salvation Army Glenorchy City Corps Officer Jeff Milkins said the woman, who has the understanding of a 5-year-old, was distraught and in tears.
“She told us she had and I quote ‘put her food money into a machine and it didn’t come back out’,” Captain Milkins said. “With a bit further questioning we discovered that she had gone to the Elwick Hotel and put her money into a poker machine. Thankfully she was only allowed $5 that day. She was so upset that she had lost her food money. We fed her, calmed her down, made contact with her carer and made sure she headed home.”
Mr Wilkie said the poker machine industry cares only for harvesting as much money as possible from the community. “I thought I’d heard it all and that I couldn’t be surprised anymore by the ruthless and predatory poker machine industry,” he said. “But to learn that the industry would stoop so low as to steal the lunch money from somebody who is basically a child sets a new low. The State Government needs to investigate and hold Federal to account.”
Captain Milkins said it was concerning the venue did not stop her. “Nobody who saw her could not realise she has a severe mental disability,” he said. “She is over 18 years of age but does not have the cognitive ability to make an informed decision about whether to gamble. We’re hoping this was an isolated incident but my gut feeling tells me it’s not. There are obviously no safeguards in place.”
Federal Group own the Elwick Hotel in Glenorchy, which was identified as Tasmania’s number-one hotel for poker machine losses based on Treasury data from 2015-16. Each poker machine there raked in nearly $150,000 a year — more than three times the state average and much more than most Tasmanians could hope to earn.
Mr Wilkie said the State Government had to introduce better harm minimisation on poker machines, including tougher fines for venues.
“Just as seatbelts and drink-driving laws made cars safer, we need measures to make poker machines safer,” he said. “If governments continue to insist on profiting from poker machines, they are obligated to do something about the terrible cost to the community and venues must be held to account for the human misery they cause.
“To that end I’ve proposed a Poker Machine Community Protection Plan with four measures that will make a real difference. These are slower spins, $1 maximum bets, tougher fines for venues that flout the rules and the removal of addictive features from machines. I’m urging state MPs to support this plan when the government resurrects its terrible new poker machine laws that shockingly contain no new measures to reduce the harm.”