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Tasmania sets out guiding principles for 2023 gambling reforms

The Australian island state of Tasmania has set out a number of guiding principles for a reform of its gambling laws when the state’s gaming licence expires in 2023.

The state government describes the principles as “a new way forward for gaming in Tasmania, which makes a clean break with the secretive ways of the past."

It explains that there has been significant public interest in the future of the state’s gaming licence, currently held by Tatts Group, over the past year. While a decision on the future of gaming in the state is not required until 2019 the government has outlined its principles and policy positions on key elements of the gaming sector ahead of time.

The government describes gambling as a lawful form of entertainment for many Tasmanians, and believes that a wide range of products should be available to consumers as long as they are fair and provide an acceptable average return to players.

“The regulation of the gaming industry should be designed to create a sustainable industry with the highest standards of probity and harm minimisation,” the government says. “The returns from the gaming industry should be shared appropriately among the industry, players and the Government representing the community.”

It also says that the placement or relocation of electronic gaming machines (EGM) into new venues outside of the casino environment should be determined by public interest and not solely by the industry’s wishes.

Finally, the government adds, the duration of a gaming licence should be commensurate with the level of investment necessary to underpin the delivery of the gaming operation.

In line with these guiding principles, the government has set out its policy positions in relation to casino gaming operations as well as EGM (electronic gaming machine) gaming in hotels and clubs post-2023.

The rights to conduct gaming in the existing casinos including EGMs and table gaming and the operation of casino are to remain with the federal group, while the tax rates and licence fees for casino gaming and keno are to be reviewed against the broader Australian market. This will help ensure that returns to players, the licensed entity and the community via the government are appropriate.

The government will allow ‘high-roller, non-residential’ casino licences to be awarded based on a proposal put forward by professional gambler and owner of the Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) David Walsh. As Walsh has announced his intention to apply for a licence, he has been given first option to apply.

The rights to operate EGMs in pubs and clubs after 2023 will be allocated and priced by a market-based mechanism such as tender, with the state-wide EGM cap of 3,680 to be decreased to 3,530 machines that year.

The rate at which these machines are taxed will be reviewed with a view to ensure that returns to players, the licensed operator and the community are “appropriate and reflective of the broader Australian market and that the returns to hotels and clubs, and the community, be should be at least in the same position they are today.”

The community support levy, which is applied to EGM activity in hotels and clubs, will also be reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of the community.

Finally the location of EGMs will be subject to a new public interest test to be applied by the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission, giving local communities more of a say in determining the future location of the machines in the community.

The government will also look to ensure a fully transparent public consultation process to allow Tasmanians to have input into the future structure of the state’s gaming sector after 2023. This will see a joint parliamentary committee comprising three House of Assembly members, one from each party and three independent members of the state Legislative Council to manage this consultation process and report by the end of the year.

This will see the policy position considered, market-based mechanisms such as tender processes reviewed, as well as future taxation and licensing arrangements. Harm minimisation measures will also be assessed, as well as the licence terms.

“The government has developed a number of clear policy positions that we want the community to have the opportunity to comment on in a transparent and open way,” the Tasmanian government explained. “We are bringing this process forward now to provide certainty to the community before the 2019 decision point.

“Our very firm view is that this policy position and the open and transparent process outlined today is the right way forward and in the best interests of the state.”

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