An average of $545,000 a day has been lost since poker machines reopened after the Covid lockdown, an increase of $70,000 a day on the year before.
More than $180m has been lost on Tasmanian poker machines since Peter Gutwein became premier in January 2020, according to data from the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission.
Since the re-election of the Liberal government in March 2018, losses on poker machines have run to almost $500m.
The latest monthly data, released on Friday, indicates that daily losses averaged more than $545,000 a day since poker machine venues reopened after the coronavirus lockdown.
This is an increase of almost $70,000 lost a day compared with the year before.
Poker machine venues were closed between 23 March and 26 June last year due to public health restrictions. The independent member for the Legislative Council seat of Nelson, Meg Webb, a longtime social policy campaigner who is not up for re-election on 1 May, estimated that the lockdown averted further losses of $44.3m.
Its important to remember that half the money lost to pokies in Tasmania comes from people who are addicted or in at-risk categories, she said.
Those losses are not recreational. Hundreds of millions of dollars in the past three years have come from Tasmanians with a diagnosable condition, causing damage to their lives and harm to those around them.
Before the March 2018 state election, the Federal Group, which operates two casinos and a network of hotels with poker machines, and the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, which represents pubs and clubs, launched an advertising and PR blitz against Labor and the Greens. Both parties wanted poker machines removed from community pubs and clubs but retained in the two casinos.
In this election campaign the two lobby groups have been far more muted, having entered into memorandums of understanding with the Labor and Liberal parties.
The MOU with the Labor Party said it supported poker machines remaining in pubs and clubs and agreed to work together on the development of potential viable harm minimisation measures. It said these measures need to be workable for industry.
Whether Federal Group and the THA are donating to political parties and candidates before this election remains unclear.
A spokesperson for the clubs lobby group told Tasmanian Inquirer on 7 April that at that stage it had no intention of making any donations to any party or candidates in either the House of Assembly or Legislative Council campaigns. A request for confirmation that this was still the case drew no response.
Federal Group was also asked if it was contributing to political parties or candidates in either the lower-house or Legislative Council campaigns. No response was received.
More than $750m would be lost on Tasmanias poker machines in the next four-year term of the House of Assembly if the losses continued at their current rate.
Webb said the magnitude of the losses highlighted the need to adopt strong harm minimisation measures. The harm caused by pokies addiction is largely preventable, she said. We know exactly how to make the machines less addictive and less harmful, and doing so would not affect the experience of recreational users.
But this is an industry that fiercely defends the super-profits it derives from those who are addicted and is prepared to brutally bring to heel any state government or political party that dares stand in its way.
This article was republished with permission from the Tasmanian Inquirer