Pre-commitment cards for poker machines must be mandatory for all players and have low weekly or monthly limits to have any effect on problem gambling in Tasmania, the former chair of the state's Gaming Commission believes.
Peter Hoult - who served in the role from 2008 to 2016 - believes Labor and the Liberals put pre-commitment cards on the table, along with facial recognition, as a way of diverting the debate away from slower spin speeds and lower maximum bets.
Labor proposed the measure, which the government has referred to the commission for assessment, as its key harm minimisation method as part of the reforms which will last at least 20 years.
Similar programs have been trialled across Australia with few ultimately adopted. They involve disabling coin slots and adding a card-reader for the pre-commitment cards, which can be loaded with amounts at varying intervals.
Some systems stop players from adding more to the card for set periods, and others have maximum amounts that can be added.
Mr Hoult said states and territories had shied away from the systems due to their complexity, and that they needed to implemented universally to all gamblers to be effective, impacting recreational players too.
"Who makes the decision about how much somebody can put on a card? How do you make an assessment about how much a person can lose in a week?" he said.
"If there's no pre-committed limit on the card, people can just keep gambling.
"You'd have to put a card reader on every machine, or what happens when a player loses their $50 on the card? They'll want to keep putting money into machines, so they'll just go to one that doesn't have a reader."
Labor wants pre-commitment cards included in the legislation - which leader Rebecca White said should be mandatory - but the government would only consider adding it later in regulation that can be altered.
Widespread research already into pre-commitment technology
The systems have been studied rigorously in Australia in the past decade. A 2014 Monash University study found that optional systems were not effective and had limited uptake, while gaming software manufacturers - relied upon to implement changes - had a vested interest.
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found that uptake of the optional system was "generally low", but that the biggest barrier to mandatory pre-commitment was opposition from government and industry.
A 2017 review by the Australian Government also found that optional, or partial, systems could have uptake rates of just 1 per cent.
Labor also wants facial recognition technology added in venues to automatically identify people on the voluntary self-exclusion scheme, but Mr Hoult said that would be a costly exercise that would create disagreement over who pays for it.
Mr Hoult said the government's decision to refer both the pre-commitment and facial recognition ideas to the commission was a stalling tactic.
"If you were serious about harm minimisation, (Finance Minister) Michael Ferguson wouldn't just refer these two to the commission, but would have asked for a look into a comprehensive suite of harm minimisation measures to help people with a gambling problem," he said.
"The two parties have chosen things which they hope will just end the discussion."
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Debate in the lower on the government's reform bill lasted well into Thursday night.
The Tasmanian Greens called for a division on every clause in order to force Labor to vote repeatedly with the government.
Debate reached clause 28 out of 108 before it was adjourned until next week.
Labor has the numbers to force amendments in the upper house.
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