The Liberals’ newly announced gaming policy poses significant dangers to problem gamblers and could leave smaller pubs and clubs worse off.
That is according to former Liquor and Gaming Commission chairman Peter Hoult.
The state government outlined its gaming policy on Tuesday.
It seeks to introduce poker machine licences for individual venues that would last for up to 20 years, despite the TLGC’s recommendation of shorter licence periods to a parliamentary inquiry.
Under the policy, gaming giant Federal Group would no longer have a monopoly on pokies in Tasmania, with the company retaining exclusive rights to table gaming and pokies in Tasmanian casinos, as well as the licence to operate Keno.
The Liberals’ policy comes almost a month after Labor announced its plan to rid pubs and clubs of pokies in Tasmania, confining them to casinos.
Mr Hoult said the individual licence model would see venues compete with each other, which he said would be bad news for problem gamblers.
“I also think that the smaller pubs and smaller club venues, particularly in regional areas, are going to find themselves significantly disadvantaged when they lose access to the … model currently,” he said.
“I think every pub and club that is left on its own to try to manage its own machines … [will] very quickly find themselves having to purchase lots of outside assistance.”
But Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the 20-year licence term was essential for business confidence.
“The financiers need to know there is security in front of them,” he said.
However, Dixon Hotel Group chairman Peter Dixon, who owns Launceston’s Plough Inn and other venues across the state, said if pokies were taken out of his venues, 120 of his 600 employees would “have to go”.
“[Labor’s policy is] not a policy, it’s actually a death warrant, written by dreamers who don’t understand business or the industry,” he said.
Opposition finance spokesman Scott Bacon said competing licence-holders would be forced to offer inducements to gamblers, making problem gambling more pronounced.
Meanwhile, Mr Gutwein confirmed that one of the two high roller casino licences being sought by Tasmanian operators would likely be granted to a Northern operator subject to a cost benefit analysis.