Federal Group fights for pokies monopoly in parliament inquiry

Federal Group Greg Farrell
Federal Group Greg Farrell says Tasmania’s problem gamblers are below the national average.

The Federal Group is fighting to remain Tasmania’s sole poker machine operator as the inquiry into the state’s gaming future commences.

Social and economic impacts were the main issues addressed on the first day of the parliamentary inquiry into the future of Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) in Tasmania.

The Federal Group argued Tasmania’s number of problem gamblers are below the national average at just 0.5 per cent of the population.

Federal Group chief executive, Greg Farrell, told parliament Tasmanian’s weren’t concerned about gambling.

“Gaming as an unprompted issue rates extraordinarily low, in fact for many years on an unprompted basis it does not rate at all,” he said.

Mr Farrell said he believed people played on pokie machines for enjoyment and not with the expectation they would win.

Parliamentary committee member, Greens MP Andrea Dawkins quoted a Productivity Commission report to contest these claims. It revealed 83 per cent of Tasmanians surveyed wanted pokies removed in their area.

“Do you refute those findings? Or do you think the Productivity Commission is not using the right methodology?” she asked Mr Farrell.

Mr Farrell said he wasn’t aware of this research, which was conducted in 2010.

“I certainly don’t get any sense that the majority of people adamantly want to see the removal of gaming machines,” he said.

Mr Farrell also addressed the economic benefits the Federal Group provided, citing a $343 million contribution into the state’s economy last financial year.

“We are an important contributor to the local community,” he said.

“There will be requirement to address the distribution of taxes and licences, which are heavily skewed to casinos.

“This has not mattered under the sole licence arrangements but extremely disadvantages Wrest Point and Country Club as standalone businesses.”

Community Voice On Pokies Reform spokeswoman, Meg Webb, has said the inquiry has provided the first opportunity for Tasmanians to address government on the issue.

Whether the government will adopt the recommendations was questioned by Committee member, MLC Mike Gaffney.

“There has been a criticism in the past that with past inquiries in the gaming industry the recommendations have not been enacted on by successive governments,” he said.

Premier Will Hodgman couldn’t dismiss these claims, but he said all opinions will be deliberated.

“As a government we’ve said very clearly this is a community conversation,” he said.

“We will certainly consider the input, the perspective of all those who contribute to the inquiry.

“As a government it will be our decision to determine what is the best way forward.”

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