Tasmanian government to impose gambling restrictions, but some say ‘real problem gamblers’ will find a way

Michael Kunz has been playing on and off the slots for decades.

Sitting in the game lounge of the Westbury Hotel in Northern Tasmania, he said he never let his gambling become a problem.

“I don’t do it heavy, sometimes twice a week, but I don’t spend much,” he said.

“I have set myself limits and hopefully I will walk away as the winner.”

He doesn’t want the government to put limits on how many players can gamble.

“I think it’s government over-regulation. Like everything else, they’re trying to fix something that really doesn’t need fixing. It’s working right now,” he said.

The Tasmanian government has announced that it will introduce Australia’s first mandatory pre-commitment card for slot players, limiting the amount people can spend on the machines to $5,000 a year.

The cards will be brought in by the end of 2024 and will only allow players to lose $100 per day or $500 per month.

Westbury Hotel tax collector James Neal said Mr Kunz is one of 99 percent of players in his hotel for whom gambling on the slots was not a problem.

He believes that the cards that will punish players and gamblers will not help.

“The real problem gamblers, that 1 percent, will find a solution,” he said.

“They will appeal to general customers to buy them a card. I can see it happening now.

“You’re going to push the real 1 percent of gamblers online. How much control is there in an online gambling environment? Zero. Tick a box, 18, put in a credit card and play 24/7.”

Mr. Neal admitted the changes would likely impact his bottom line, but insisted that wasn’t the point.

He said the best way to reduce damage to problem players was to better fund the current system.

“Staff are trained to identify problem gamblers, provide assistance and paraphernalia to direct them to a gambling line,” he said.

“To improve it, you work on staff training, you work on the systems once that problem gambler has been identified.

“We see these people all day, every day. We know what their spending habits are and we know if they are unusual.”

Resistance will be ‘savage’

Hobart-based Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said these were the same arguments the gambling industry had used for years to crush the gambling reform.

“I expect industry resistance to this will be fierce,” he said.

“For them, it’s all about the holy dollar and they want to protect their winnings, which are largely paid for by gambling addicts.”

Mr Wilkie said there were about 100,000 slot machine addicts in Australia at any given time, and while it was true that they made up a small fraction of the total number of players, they contributed 40 percent to the total losses on machines.

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