Gambling on the future
The Tasmanian Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets is currently considering the future of poker machines in Tasmania, including a possible reduction in the number of machines and whether to retain the monopoly position of Federal Group (set to expire in 2023). The Committee has received 148 submissions and held six days of public hearings.
This paper looks at some historic estimates of the impact on employment and state GDP from a phase out of poker machines, and provides recent alternative data from the ABS and the Productivity Commission.
Our research finds that under most models, the cost of poker machine-related problem gambling (up to $153.3 million in 2011 dollars) far exceeds revenue from poker machine-related gambling taxes and fees ($53.4 million in 2016).
Previous estimates of the impact of phasing out poker machines on employment are inconsistent with recent ABS statistics. ABS data suggests gambling employment in Tasmania of around 1,500 people, rather than over 4,000 as calculated in the most recent government-commissioned social and economic impact study.
Venue operators estimated that half of their staff were employed “directly as a result of gambling”, and say that they employ low-skilled people who might otherwise struggle to find a job. In contrast to this, the 2010 Productivity Commission found that although the gambling industry employs many people, in its absence those people may easily find employment elsewhere. The Commission further noted that modelling undertaken on behalf of the gaming industry found “no long-run effect on national employment from even full prohibition of the gambling industries”.
Figures relied upon to estimate impact to the State’s GDP may also be over-estimated as scenarios were also limited to considering the end of the Tasmanian gambling industry as a whole rather than just the phase out of poker machines.