Reprogramming Tasmania's poker machines to reduce maximum bets and slow the spin speeds would be relatively costly but still achievable if there was will from the government, a pokies expert believes.
When asked about changing the way in which machines operate to reduce harm, Braddon Labor MHA Shane Broad last week argued that the party had "been told time and time again" that "you can't really do that", but did not specify who told them that.
The party instead proposed harm minimisation of mandatory card-based pre-commitment on machines and facial recognition technology for venues, which will be looked into by the Gaming Commission.
Monash University Associate Professor Charles Livingstone - one of Australia's leading gambling researchers - said slower spin speeds and lower bet limits were achievable, but it would take plenty of planning.
"The stock of machines in Tasmania is fairly old so they might have to change a piece of software. It'd be changing the artwork and modifying a chip in the machines," he said.
"It's something you could foreshadow or implement over time, certainly before a new licensing system.
"It could cost less than $100 per machine.
"The industry doesn't want it though, reducing bets from $5 to $1 would have an actual effect on losses."
Both Tasmania and Victoria reduced their maximum bets from $10 to $5 in the past.
Last week, the lower house passed an amendment to the government's bill that would require the Gaming Commission to investigate the feasibility of pre-commitment cards and facial recognition, to report to the minister by June 30.
Clark independent MHA Kristie Johnston attempted to have the commission investigate all harm minimisation methods, but this was rejected by the government and Labor.
The government is not bound by the findings of the commission, but Finance Minister Michael Ferguson said the government would "expect and hope" to see card-based gaming.
Dr Livingstone said facial recognition would be costly and had privacy concerns, but pre-commitment technology would be "relatively easy to introduce" via a card reader on machines and standardised software.
He said it would be difficult for the government to set specific limits for all players, and it could come down to individual choice.
"If people are encouraged to set a reasonable limit - and helped and supported to set those limits - then you would have an effective tool to manage gambling addiction," Dr Livingstone said.
"Many gamblers like those in the grip of addiction, even in their darkest moments, would have wanted to set a limit.
"Software can do what you want - make it hourly, daily, weekly limits - you might want to set a maximum of $100-a-week, no more than 10 hours a week on machines, anything."
One of his biggest concerns for Tasmania, however, was the lack of planning to reduce poker machines in disadvantaged areas.
"Every time I look at the location data for Tasmania, it sends a shiver down my spine. It's the most regressive distribution of pokies in Australia, and we've been worried about that for a long time."
Labor's Dr Broad said the party chose its harm minimisation approach based on policies that the government might be open to supporting.
"That is the art of the achievable, not the art of striving for perfection and throwing your toys out of the cot and grandstanding," he said.
Debate will continue in the lower house next week.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: