Questions have been raised over the effectiveness of a community interest test for new poker machine licences in Tasmania.
The government in October announced the test would be introduced as there was no scope for community views to be acknowledged when applications for new gaming machine venues were approved.
Former Tasmanian Gaming Commission chairman Peter Hoult said a similar test in Victoria was “burning out communities” with anti-pokies advocates – many of them volunteers – pitted against proponents with substantially more resources to fight for months in tribunals.
Mr Hoult said it would make more sense to set a density limit in local government areas, based on a ratio of adults to poker machines.
Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission said the test was likely to be implemented in September this year and that the process would not be costly or cumbersome for either applicants or objectors, based on experience from other states.
It said that the applicant would need to provide a detailed outline of the facilities in the area and other gaming venues with turnover, expenditure and gaming machine density statistics.
Anglicare Social Action and Research Centre manager Meg Webb said a community interest test was useless unless it applied to licence renewals.
The organisation, like several others, has been pushing for poker machines to be banned in pubs and clubs in Tasmania.
When questioned by the committee on compensating venues for losses related to revenue and capital expenditure, Ms Webb believed they had profited off the community enough through poker machines.
Anglicare commissioned Australian Institute for Business and Economics director John Mangan to study what would happen if poker machines were taken from these venues.
He found that redirecting the $113 million spent on poker machines in these places each year to other areas of the economy would generate $91 million more in business turnover and $61 million to overall Gross State Product, and create 670 full-time-equivalent jobs.
After the inquiry, Professor Mangan said problem gambling was associated with poker machines and reducing access would provide a net benefit to the state, though some venues would be negatively impacted.
”If you want a gambling policy that reduces social harm, you should take (poker machines) out of pubs and clubs,” he said.
“Tasmania has much less reliance on gambling revenue so it is in a great position to make structural changes.”
Federal Group will speak at the inquiry this Friday.