Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Launch of ‘Losing Streak’ today (March 14) …

Cover of the book …

*Pic: of Tasmania’s Treasurer Peter Gutwein, from his website: “There is no evidence that Peter Gutwein is a habitual liar or heartless cynic. Why, then, would he mislead the community about the extent of this suffering?”

*Pic: From ‘Team Mulawa’ here: “Greg Farrell Jr, “Mr. Mulawa”: Greg is by nature very hands-on – activity done translates into learning and understanding – and he still applies this essential quality to the horses with ambitious zeal and earnest dedication. Greg is a natural horseman – his innate affection for and confident ease with horses is readily apparent in his daily interaction with the horses at every level. Although Greg’s primary vocational responsibility has always been Managing Director of Federal Group (the highly successful and widely respected Australian owned family business and the world’s second oldest hotel group), he always finds quality time for the horses. He remains integrally involved with all the handling and training of the Mulawa Arabians, from early breaking through the professional turn out of top level show ring performers in hand. (Pictured with ADVENT) “

The ingrained assumptions of a political class …

First published March 2

On almost every index, Tasmania is the most disadvantaged state in Australia. The economist Saul Eslake has recently established that Tasmanians are ‘older, sicker, affected more by disability, less likely to have a job, earning less (if employed) and having less by way of real or financial assets than other Australians’. His Tasmania Report found that the island state has ‘greater concentrations of social and economic disadvantage than any other State or Territory’, with gross household incomes about a third less than the national average.

Among the poorest of its poor are the more than 8000 people whose gambling is causing ‘adverse consequences’ to them and their families. A decentralised population of only half a million people means that Tasmanians also enjoy unusually strong community ties; every second person knows someone with a gambling problem, and one in eight has an immediate family member who is directly affected.

About 85 per cent of all the money lost by ‘problem gamblers’ is through addiction to the world’s most dangerous form of poker machine. Industry whistleblowers have confirmed that these high-intensity machines are designed to ‘capture’ vulnerable people through ‘special features’ and encourage them to gamble compulsively.

By this measure, the machines have been a great success. Research commissioned by the Tasmanian government found that the majority of people in a pokies lounge at any time are likely to be clinically defined problem gamblers, and that people experiencing negative impacts from their gambling account for about half of poker machine expenditure. In other words, pokie addicts are not just customers of Tasmania’s gambling industry; they are its core business.

The state’s treasurer, Peter Gutwein, has claimed that the most recent government-commissioned study ‘found that the rate of problem gambling in Tasmania has fallen by over 25 per cent’. He suggested that this evidence should ‘temper emotions flaring in the debate around poker machines’. But the report he cited specifically warns against using its figures to claim that problem gambling has decreased.

What the researchers concluded was, ‘The proportion of Tasmanian adults experiencing the most acute problems associated with gambling is unchanged [my emphasis].’

Problem-gambling statistics are not like the impersonal economic indices that all treasurers are inclined to interpret in the best possible light. Every person with a gambling problem is an individual in pain.

After decades of research, there is no longer any doubt that poker machine addicts are more likely to commit crime, suffer depression, anxiety and other mental-health problems, encounter relationship difficulties, become homeless, lose contact with loved ones, and endure financial hardship. Their partners, parents and children are locked in lives of desperation because of their addiction. Significant numbers of these constituents have been brave enough to tell their heart-wrenching stories to MPs. There is no evidence that Peter Gutwein is a habitual liar or heartless cynic. Why, then, would he mislead the community about the extent of this suffering?

The most obvious answer is that his line supports the government’s entrenched policy. Tasmania is the only state with a single pokies licence, and the contract is due to expire in 2018. The treasurer – even before a parliamentary inquiry began looking into this issue – has announced that there will be no change to the number and location of poker machines.

What is not so easy to explain is why the government is so resistant to change? Every poker machine in Tasmania is owned by Federal Hotels, a Sydney-based company fully owned by one family (who have become, on the back of this monopoly, one of the richest in the nation). This means that no other state has so few losers and so many potential winners from pursuing reform. Beneficiaries would include the majority of hotels and clubs. Nor is this a state government that is ‘addicted’ to pokies revenue.

The terms of the remarkably generous pokies contract with Federal Hotels mean that not even the harshest critic could claim that gambling policy has been driven by a commitment to maximise financial return. This once-in-a-generation opportunity to remove poker machines from the community also enjoys overwhelming popular support. When the Tasmanian parliament moved to legalise poker machines in hotels in 1993, opposition was so high that even Tattersalls, after conducting polling, became nervous about returning to the state where it was founded. Numerous polls have confirmed that public opinion has not changed since.

Peter Gutwein’s position on poker machines is not in the interests of the Liberal Party, its small business heartland or the Treasury. The policy defies political and economic logic, not to speak of its callous indifference to harm.

To understand the treasurer’s rhetoric, it is necessary to recognise that for nearly fifty years almost every minister in charge of gambling policy, regardless of political allegiance, has misrepresented data to defend the industry. The latest propaganda is less an expression of an individual politician’s views than of the ingrained assumptions of a political class. Their trenchant support of the status quo is not due to self-interest, but to a conflict of interest that permeates the political establishment.

Only Tasmanian history can explain Peter Gutwein’s spin and the determination of both major political parties to block substantial poker machine reform. This history did not begin with the arrival of pokies in the 1990s, but with a gambling licence issued in the 1960s. It began with the machinations behind the development of Australia’s first casino.

All about Losing Streak, Black Inc. here

James Boyce

Launch details …

James Boyce Author Talk Wednesday 15 March, 5:30pm Not Just Books, 52 Wilson Street, Burnie, TAS, 7320

Losing Streak launch Tuesday 14 March, 5:30pm The Republic Bar & Cafe, 299 Elizabeth Street (Corner of Burnett) North Hobart

The Conversation: Tasmania’s pokie problem: stress and disadvantage exploited more than anywhere else in Australia

Pat Caplice, Rein in the Pokies: Parliamentary Committee told to Rein in The Pokies

Examiner: Tasmanian gaming inquiry hears of impact of pokies on communities

Amanda Lohrey, The Monthly: Tasmania got gamed James Boyce’s ‘Losing Streak’ investigates how one family came to rule the state’s poker-machine industry

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

Federal Hotels’ 1993 submission to extend pokies to the ‘Burbs. Federal’s own Social Study report

The Tasmanian Politician … and the powerful will of Mr Farrell …

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. john hayward

    March 13, 2017 at 10:02 am

    When a GBE is found to have mysteriously acquired freehold title to 77,809ha of Crown land plantation, worth perhaps $200m+, without a shred of evidence that the state government has received a cent’s worth of compensation, and without so much as a murmur of curiosity from any other political party, you can confidently presume that the state’s legal/ethical immune system does not exist.

    The incredible success of a gaming company in this state seems to confirm the grim diagnosis.

    John Hayward

  2. TGC

    March 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm


  3. Pat Caplice

    March 6, 2017 at 11:24 pm


  4. TGC

    March 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    #15 “Rein in The Pokies” -recruit that Xenophon bloke who had the same mission for South Australia.
    How’d he go?

  5. Pat Caplice

    March 6, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    That was out of my mouth when I fronted, by invitation, the committee. That was one bit I wanted in hansard. It was great to be part of a double act with a PHD specialist in Pokies addiction, Charles Livingstone from Monash Uni.

    The committee was left in no doubt that one in three regular Pokies players will become addicted and then have very little chance but to lose all.

    The Libs wrote the Terms of Reference but the make up of the committee is interesting. Lower House Lib/Lab and Green. Upper House Chair Mike Gaffney plus 2 other independents, both of whom had never shown previous interest in Pokies!

    The questions from one of these were very well prepared when Greg Farrell appeared and the comments of the other pretty sycophantic.

    A tough committee. It will be an interesting report, if an election doesn’t come first disbanding it


  6. Simon Warriner

    March 6, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Pat Caplice, more power to your arm (and the pen it wields), well done and absolutely bloody right. A class action would certainly put the pucker in a few backsides.

  7. Pat Caplice

    March 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Mike
    This is how I put the legal situation to the Pokies committee

    “All of you are aware of the current case against Crown Casino and the manufacturer Aristocrat in the federal court. That case, of course, is limited by the scope of the ACCC’s fair trading provisions. What you guys have to ask yourself is, if parliament fails to properly regulate EGMs and is in full knowledge of their addictive elements and how those elements interact with the odds, will the state be at risk? That is, at risk of class suits from those who suffer consequential harm, from players, from businesses who have embezzled for players to continue playing, from families who have suffered harm. It’s not just a moral question, it may become a question of liability.

    I said that I have been a bit of a gambler and I’m certainly not a lawyer, but as a gambler I always assessed the odds and I bet when I judged them to be slightly in my favour. When I look at the losses attributed to addicted and at-risk players, about $130 million of the annual Tasmanian $220 million loss, and I look at the $50 million returned to the state, and then I factor the chance of litigation, my betting antenna starts screaming at me, ‘It’s a really bad bet’. I ask that you take that chance of litigation seriously because it’s real. Then ask yourself, would that litigation be directed at Federal Hotels or whoever the operator or operators may be, or would it be directed at the entity that gave them the okay for pokies to be used – us, the state of Tasmania? That will be the taxpayers when it comes to court.”

    The pollies have been made aware the legal risks. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

    Pat Caplice

    Rein in The Pokies

  8. mike seabrook

    March 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    have the pollies done their legal research yet – on legal risks (tassie taxpayers) on the tassie states involvement in leading ignorant and uneducated and uninformed lambs to be slaughtered and blight their families lives – the sociological studies have all been done.

    do the chinese authorities which forbid gambling and promoting gambling ( on pain of risk of a 1 am knock on the door ( see four corners) know something about what is best for their citizens lives.

  9. TGC

    March 5, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    #4 It would be much less painful- but probably equally beneficial to keep bashing one’s head against a brick wall than “…to start electing independent representatives who are prepared to do two things.
    1 Represent all their constituents, without fear or favour, and without interjecting their personal bias, dogma, ideology or pet scheme into the mix.

    2 Consider all those representations, in concert with their fellow representatives, against the test of “the greatest possible common good, and make policy and legislation to that end.”
    #4 has given this absolutely no thought at all.
    those that have have seen the nightmare.

  10. Stephen Menadue

    March 3, 2017 at 12:39 am

    ONE swift, stroke of a pen and a huge, destructive problem can be eradicated from our state and a shitload of money would eventually start flowing back into communities instead of into the coffers of the state Government and the deep pockets of the company that gives out the licenses. Get your snout out of the trough and do what’s best for People and where they live.

  11. Philip Lowe

    March 2, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Mark Temby No 1. It isn’t what goes into newspapers that is interesting,it is what is left out.Schonky connections between politicians,the media,the police and local authorities.Maybe we could do with this stuff in children’s story books?Why wait until you are a grown up before you find out that this kind of stuff is reality.Nothing left out on Tassie Times.

  12. Greg James

    March 2, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    It is clear that over the years Federal Hotels have intimidated politicians and corrupted our state. Hodgman announced as a new leader, an anti pokies stand for the Liberals and Greg Farrell, the gambling baron, placed three adds in three newspapers and The Liberals never spoke about poker machines again.

    It is also clear that the ALP are owned and operated by Federal Hotels and that they, the ALP say nothing, ignore the problems in Glenorchy and cooperate with persecuting the addicted and poor of this state, purely in their own self interest.

    Josh Willie newly elected ALP member for Glenorchy in the LegCo stated that ‘pokies are not an issue’. Yet $20 million pa is removed from the Northern suburbs by poker machines.

    Both parties support a monopoly, the Liberals as the party of ‘Free Enterprise’ are in fact closet communists. The ALP are in fact closet conservatives. Both pretend to be something else. Both parties are hypocritical and both lie to the public. Neither will actually engage on this issue and both want it swept under the carpet.

  13. john hayward

    March 2, 2017 at 10:23 am

    #8, Mike. So you would like to see an Aussie president “who could be like Trump” ?

    Don Watson describes Trump as “a scam artist, an ignoramus, a professional liar, a colossal and malignant narcissist,, a vulgarian, a casino operator, a serial bankrupt, a Roy Cohn- mentored billionaire with deep Mob connections …”. He is presently seeking to centralise power in himself to an unprecedented degree.

    Our LibLabs have ticked a fair number of those superlatives. Why are you so hard on them?

    John Hayward

  14. mike seabrook

    March 2, 2017 at 12:35 am

    the more the power is centralised , the more corrupt and inept dealings and lesser accountability.

    the longer between elections – the less accountable.

    more power to the councils and less power to the state pollies, fed pollies and dare i say a president who could be like trump.

  15. mike seabrook

    March 2, 2017 at 12:30 am

    hit em hard

    give packer/crown the rights to build a casino at the csiro site on the entrance to sullivans cove and leave wrest point without the gambling.

    they ratted on the saphire promises deal and handed the abt railway back to the tassie taxpayer.

  16. mike seabrook

    March 2, 2017 at 12:26 am

    and still no gordon-below-franklin hydro scheme

  17. Pat Caplice

    March 1, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    The halls of parliament house heard claims that governance in Tassie is equalled by the governance of the Turkish Mafia. That Federal Hotels may jack up their House Edge to make a killing in a changing Pokies environment.

    That the state could face class actions if they ok Pokies knowing they are addictive and how the addiction and its nexus with their appalling odds can only ruin people.

    Read what Pat (me) and Dr Charles Livingstone had to say to them.


    Pat Caplice
    Rein in The {pies

  18. Simon Warriner

    March 1, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    There is a way to unseat conflicted, unrepresentative party twerps like Gutwien, but it requires that the voters change their ways and stop voting for candidates that promise to deliver what the voters want with no ability to, and little intent of ever delivering. Clearly that long worn robe is getting tattered and covered in filth.

    We need to start electing independent representatives who are prepared to do two things.

    1 Represent all their constituents, without fear or favour, and without interjecting their personal bias, dogma, ideology or pet scheme into the mix.

    2 Consider all those representations, in concert with their fellow representatives, against the test of “the greatest possible common good”, and make policy and legislation to that end.

    Perhaps then we might avoid the obscene cluster fuck that has seen significant wealth leave this state to pamper the Farrell family and their pet nags. As a bonus many of the other problems might get fixed as well.

    What we keep doing ain’t working. Let’s try something different.

  19. john hayward

    March 1, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    A concentrate of Boyce’s book can be found in Amanda Lohrey’s fine review of it in the March issue of The Monthly …


    In the same issue is Don Watson’s vivisection of Eric Abetz’s greatly preferred Don – Trump (“American berserk”).

    John Hayward

  20. john hayward

    March 1, 2017 at 11:51 am

    James Boyce seems to find unimaginable the notion of a Tas politician acting in the interests of himself/herself and/or a powerful supporter rather than the public interest.

    While it does seem to defy both economic and moral logic, it is also the logic on which most corrupt conservative states operate. Control and dominance seems to trump general prosperity and harmony in their priorities every time. I suspect they take almost as much satisfaction from the conquest of their perceived economic enemies as from their own material gain.

    The meteoric passage of the Tas pulp mill, whose ultimate beneficiaries would have fitted in a few stretch limos while razing both the state’s treasury and its environment, is just one stirling example.

    It is no accident that the likes of Abetz, currently campaigning for a spurious wedge bribe of low income service workers, is the most powerful pollie in the state.

    John Hayward

  21. Mark Temby

    March 1, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I submitted a comment on football online gambling to Fairfax recently noting similar concerns to James Boyce’s preface like poorer socio economic regions, depression and a lack of government intervention given general knowledge of the problems. It was refused publication. People prefer to turn a blind eye than acknowledge a problem until it directly affects them.

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