But there is no doubting the significant dependency of the states when it comes to poker machines.
State governments’ budget papers are forecasting increases in their pokies tax revenue in coming years, rising in Victoria from $1.09 billion in the past financial year to $1.16 billion by 2020-21. Pokies taxes in NSW are projected to rise even more sharply, from $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion, in the same period, while Queensland is expecting a 20 per cent surge in pokies tax revenue from $684 million to $819 million.
Mr Ferrar said the pokies were a source of entertainment for millions of Australians, and urged the industry’s vocal critics to remember that Australians’ personal tax bills would face substantial hikes if pokies “prohibition wishes” were granted.
The study, The Value of the Gaming Machine Industry in Australia, commissioned by the Gaming Technologies Association, was still in draft form and was not yet made public, according to Mr Ferrar, but he said the figures around the industry’s economic contribution had been confirmed.
The study also found that Australian manufacturers’ exports of gaming machines contributed $284 million in value added to the economy, Mr Ferrar said.
Allison Keogh, deputy chair and NSW spokeswoman with campaign group the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the harm pokies caused to the community “completely dwarfs” the tax revenue pokies produced.
“The social costs of gambling, including family breakdown, relationship problems, domestic violence, and emotional and psychological distress, depression and suicide, are almost $7 billion per year in Victoria alone,” said Ms Keogh, citing a recent study funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
Long-time anti-gambling campaigner Stephen Mayne said Mr Ferrar’s “delusional, denialist language about gambling harm” was damaging to the brands of his association’s market-listed member companies.
Mr Mayne called on officials from the state gambling regulators in NSW and Queensland, who attended the Sydney gaming expo, to no longer participate in the annual conference if the Gaming Technologies Association continued to be led by “extremists like Ross Ferrar”.
“Next he’ll be telling us that people enjoy smoking and it is good for them,” Mr Mayne said.
In Victoria, the Andrews government said revenue from poker machines was a shrinking proportion of the state’s overall revenue.
Pokies revenue goes directly to the state’s Hospitals and Charities Fund, the Mental Health Fund, alcohol and drug treatment services and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Fund, the government said.
Workplace Reporter for The Age
A relationship banned under traditional law.
Our new podcast series from the team behind Phoebe’s Fall
Autralia economy news