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Tasmanian Labor leader clarifies pokies stance

Tue, Feb 12, 12:10pm by Staff Writer

Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White said her party’s position on banning poker machines in pubs and clubs has not changed but from the position of opposition Labor, it is unable to uphold its election promise.

Ms White told The Examiner: “we stand by the policy that we took to the election, the unfortunate reality is that the Liberal government won.

“We haven’t abandoned the people who raised this is a really important issue.”

Following Labor’s defeat in the March 2018 election, Ms White insisted that the party would continue to pursue its election promise to ban poker machines in pubs and clubs from 2023.

Last Friday, Ms White said Labor would no longer be able to pursue the policy, because the Liberal government was planning to introduce legislation to renew operator license deeds in this term.

“The statements that I have made are just a reflection of the environment that we are in,” Ms White said.

“From opposition, we are unable to implement our policies, whether it be addressing the housing crisis or what’s happening in our health system, what’s happening with pokies, or what’s happening with jobs right across our economy.

Labor’s blanket ban will be hard to implement

Prior to last March’s state election, Labor pledged to ban poker machines from pubs and clubs by 2023.

Since the election result, the policy appears to have been swept under the carpet by the Labor Party.

It was not mentioned in Ms White’s budget reply speech to the Tasmanian parliament in July 2018.

Health, education, affordable housing and government transparency were among the many topics discussed, in what Labor described as its list of “key priorities”.

When the ABC asked explicitly about the pokies policy Ms White said: “The Tasmanian Labor Party remains firmly committed to the policy position we took at the last election.”

The Tasmanian Labor Party picked up three seats in the most recent election, but needed six to win back government.

Just after the election Ms White was asked whether or not the party’s pokies stance was too strong and cost her the election.

In response she said: “I know, and the Labor party knows, that our decision to take this issue to this election was the right thing to do for the health of our communities and for the economy of Tasmania,” White said.

“The future of poker machines was no in the hands of the Tasmania parliament,” she said.

The Federal Group was front and centre during the Tasmanian state election campaign, dismissing Labor’s pledge to remove all poker machines from Tasmanian clubs and pubs from 2023 if it won.

The Federal Group is owned by the Farrell family, who have a strong hold in poker machine licensing in Tasmania.

The Liberal Party was returned in Tasmania, with Premier Will Hodgman denying undue influence from the gambling lobby.

Under Tasmanian law, any Federal Group donations made during that election have to be disclosed by February.

The Federal Group arrived in Tasmania in 1968 when the state was struggling with debt.

Greg Farrell Sr, the chairman of the Federal Group ran a public campaign to reassure locals that a casino in Tasmania would be more than a hotel and gaming den and would put Tasmania on the map.

Wrest Point Hotel Casino was opened on 10 February 1973 and was Australia’s first legal casino.

The building was extended in 1984 to include a new conference centre and in 1996 a boardwalk was created.

In 2015, an A$70 million dollar investment was announced bringing in five new dining outlets, more bars, a private VIP gaming room and a refurbishment to the entire casino.

Wrest Point has more than 650 poker machines and 269 hotel rooms.

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