It’s no secret that Aussies love to gamble, but a recent figure may put Tasmanians at the top of the heap. After pokies were turned back on following a statewide shutdown, punters lost a record $18 million in August. That’s a 20% increase over the $15,476,406 lost in electronic gaming machines in August of 2019.

This news was not well received, especially after it was learned that Australians saved more than $3 billion while pokies were shut down. Independent candidate Meg Webb was notably upset, taking the state government to task for not properly assessing the social and economic impact of reopening gaming venues.

Webb stated, “The Premier was warned COVID-19 would increase pressure on Tasmanians with pokies addictions and any decisions to lift access restrictions required more than only public health considerations.”

A government spokesperson countered with the following, “Tasmania’s harm minimization framework is regarded as one of the leading in Australia and includes the Responsible Gambling Mandatory Code of Practice for Tasmania, which has been in place since 2012.”

Worst Case Scenario

There are plenty of stories that shine a negative light on the gambling industry, but a recent occurrence in Tasmania stands above the rest. It took place at the Elwick Hotel in Glenorchy and involved an intellectually disabled woman and a poker machine.

The woman put her “food money” into a pokie and became upset when it didn’t come back out. Luckily, she was only allowed $5 that day, otherwise the outcome could’ve been worse.

Independent federal member Clark Andrew called the pokie industry “ruthless and predatory.” He added, “To learn that the industry would stoop so low sets a new low.”

Meanwhile, the local gaming industry offered a rather lackluster excuse. According to Daniel Hanna, “The commission’s Equal Opportunity Tasmania website specifically states it is illegal to discriminate against a person with disability in a hotel or pub.”

The Luckiest Family in Australia

COVID-19 has hit every corner of the globe, but one Sydney-based family is doing better than most. Some may point to them as prime examples of Aussie business savvy, while others may see them as greedy villains. Either way, the Farrell family is riding high.

The Farrell family owns a monopoly on pokies in Tasmania

They currently have a monopoly on poker machines in Tasmania. In fact, at least one calculation has them pocketing $0.70 of every dollar lost on pokies within the state.

They made $24.4 million in the year until the end of June. That’s up from $13.9 during the previous year.

In addition to gambling and hospitality venues across Tasmania, the Farrells own than 100 Arabian horses. Their value? Just under $1 million.

The family company, Mulawa Holdings, made $543 million in the previous year. During that same time, they paid almost $75 million in taxes and licensing fees.

Their monopoly on Tasmanian pokies expires in 2023, and they’ve faced increasing political pressure. The Labor party pledged to remove pokies from pubs and clubs if they carried the March elections. However, the Liberals returned to power thanks to some timely campaign assistance from Greg Farrell and his family.

In fairness, I’ve never met any members of the Farrell family, so they may be lovely people. However, for anyone who wants to put a face on Tasmanian gambling woes, their surname has to be at the top of the list.

Additional Reading

For more Aussie gambling news, please see the following articles: