Tasmanian pubs and clubs have been left blindsided by an announcement made late last week by the Rockliff government that a cashless card pre-commitment scheme will be introduced for all of the state’s EGMs by the end of 2024.
Deputy Premier and Treasurer Michael Ferguson announced the pre-commitment scheme would “lead the nation” and was in response to the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission’s report into harm minimisation.
“I am pleased to announce the State Government’s response to the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission’s report into harm minimisation technologies for electronic gaming machines in Tasmanian hotels, clubs and casinos could minimise gambling harm.
“We support the Commission’s recommendation to implement a state-wide player card gaming system with pre-commitment and cashless gaming. The Government also supports the Commission’s view that facial recognition technology is not an effective tool for wider prevention of harm in gaming venues.”
Ferguson continued: “Routine default pre-commitment that applies State-wide in Tasmania is the gold standard of harm minimisation measures. Tasmania is the first State to announce a scheme of this kind.
“It will provide those most at risk of gambling harm with protection while having no impact on recreational gamblers.”
The Rockliff government expects the pre-commitment scheme to be implemented by December 2024. As part of the scheme gaming machine players will have to register for a cashless gaming card. The cards will have pre-set default limits, that can be lowered by players at any time; or increased within certain parameters. The default limits are:
- $100 per day;
- $500 per month; and
- $5,000 per year.
The ABC has reported that anyone wanting to spend more than $5000 annually on playing EGMs will have to prove that they have the financial capability to do so. Details on this approval process are as yet to be released.
In terms of cost, the state government has stated it will work with the new Monitoring Operator MAX to provide venues with card-based gaming technology as a fee-based service. It has also stated that to further assist the transition during 2022-23, it will grant the Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) $268,000 in funding to deliver industry support and training.
THA: ‘Backflip a slap in the face’
The THA – who supported the Rockcliff Government’s election campaign in 2018 against Labor’s campaign to ban EGMs – have been left livid with the pre-commitment scheme announcement, and the repercussions of such a scheme for the pub and club industry in Tasmania.
In a statement, the THA laid out how the Liberal Government has in recent years supported the right of Tasmanians to make their own choices when it comes to gambling, both before and after the election.
“On any objective measure, today’s backflip is a slap in the face to hotel and pub customers and hardworking small and family businesses in Tasmania – many who are only just recovering after the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” reads the statement.
“Tasmanians entrusted the Liberal Government at the 2018 election with their vote because they supported freedom and choice. Freedom and choice have been sacrificed by the Rockliff Liberal Cabinet at the expense of a fair go,” stated THA CEO Steve Old.
“The Liberal Government has declared it will decide how Tasmanians spend their money and how Tasmanians consume their entertainment.”
THA president Ben Carpenter argued that the pre-commitment scheme punishes the overwhelming majority to address the small amount of problem gamblers in the state, according to Liberal Party research.
“Their own statistics confirm 0.4 per cent of people have a problem with all forms of gambling. Today’s Orwellian announcement confirms the Liberal Government does not trust 99.6 per cent of Tasmanians,” Carpenter stated.
“To enforce a mandatory pre-commitment system – which essentially means Tasmanians need to get permission from their financial advisor to say what they’re allowed to spend their money on with no consultation – has completely blindsided industry.
“We are still in shock by the announcement today. As an industry, we will digest the announcement and consult with our operators who are affected by this decision.”
Elsewhere, the Alliance for Gambling Reform has lauded the decision of the Tasmanian Government, calling the pre-commitment scheme “a significant move to reduce harm and to combat money laundering.”
“The Tasmanian Government and Deputy Premier, Michael Ferguson, have led the nation on introducing this critical reform,” stated the Alliance’s chief advocate Tim Costello.
In its announcement of the scheme, the Tasmanian government also stated that the implementation of a player card gaming system allows the Commission and the Government to review secondary controls. This includes a review of the need for a restriction on the current EGM line limit.