Banning poker machines from Tasmanian pubs and clubs could create economic growth, new report finds

An average of $113.5 million was put through electronic gaming machines in pubs and clubs each year over the past five years.
An average of $113.5 million was put through electronic gaming machines in pubs and clubs each year over the past five years.

A report commissioned by Anglicare has found the removal of gaming machines from pubs and clubs could direct more than $113 million to other areas of the state’s economy.

The report comes after warnings from the hospitality industry that restricting the machines to casinos would damage regional economies and lead to devastating job losses.

The report, to be presented at the resumption of the parliamentary gaming inquiry on Friday, showed job losses would occur but absorbed by other parts of a growing service and hospitality industry.

Professor John Magan found that over five years, an average of $113.5 each year went into poker machines.

“Taking poker machines out of Tasmanian hotels and clubs would see up to $113 million in spending re-directed into other local businesses,” Professor Mangan said.

“That would benefit the local economy and create jobs, while at the same time reducing the social costs caused by having poker machines in suburbs and regional towns.”

He said gambling expenditure did not create much of a positive economic impact as it took away spending from the domestic economy, and went to the mainland via lease financiers and shareholder dividends.

Under a situation were all spending on pokies was diverted elsewhere, Professor Mangan found there would be $91 million more generated in business turnover, $61 million added to overall Gross State Product (GSP), and $45 million in extra wages and profits.

This would mean a boost of up to 670 full-time-equivalent jobs.

If 20 per cent of the poker machine spend went to casinos and 80 per cent into other areas of the economy, there would be $74 million in additional turnover, $50 million added to GSP, and $31 million in wages and profits – potentially creating 546 jobs.

Under a scenario where 50 per cent of poker machine cash went to the casino and the other half to the broader economy, businesses would enjoy $33 million in additional turnover, the state would be $21 million better off, and there would be 183 jobs created.

Professor Mangan highlighted that although about 4800 people were employed in hotels and clubs around the state, just 200 full-time-equivalent jobs were in gaming areas.

Professor Mangan said just seven of the state’s 189 clubs, and 89 of the state’s hotels, had poker machines.

Anglicare Tasmania's Social Action and Research Centre manager Meg Webb said the report added a convincing economic argument to banning poker machines from the suburbs, alongside strong social and health evidence.