Casino boss denies government held to ransom

Country Club general manager Jackie Hutchinson and Federal Group managing director Greg Farrell at the Country Club Christmas party. Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

Country Club general manager Jackie Hutchinson and Federal Group managing director Greg Farrell at the Country Club Christmas party. Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

FEDERAL Group chairman Greg Farrell has used the Country Club Tasmania Christmas address as an opportunity to state his version of events after the company encountered unexpected public backlash at its exclusive rights to operate gaming licences.

Federal Group has total control of state gaming licences until 2023 throughout Tasmania - covering table gaming, poker machines and Keno.

Yet that didn't deter attempts from MONA owner David Walsh to persevere with the proposal of a high-end casino adjacent to his Hobart museum earlier this year.

MONA's attempts were met by the Federal Group with a compromise of sorts: for approval of Mr Walsh's requests, the group wanted its exclusive poker machine licence extended.

However, Mr Walsh - a vocal pokie machine hater - wasn't prepared to take responsibility for extending Federal Group's gaming monopoly and rejected the deal that would have allowed MONA's proposed boutique casino to go ahead.

Public disapproval of Federal Group's actions has since ensued.

Last night Mr Farrell spoke out about the deal and took the opportunity to settle "a number of untruths", including that the company was holding the Tasmanian government to ransom.

"This is simply untrue," Mr Farrell said, adding that Federal Group wanted to invest more into the Tasmanian government through "exciting" projects, using their award-winning boutique hotel Saffire as an example.

Mr Farrell said that overall payments from the company accounted for 8 per cent of all state government revenue, allowing it to invest in services for the community such as hospitals, schools and roads.

"Or, they could have built one hell of a museum," Mr Farrell said.

Mr Farrell also used the Christmas address to persuade audiences that gambling wasn't a huge issue in Tasmania, that Federal Group didn't break its 2003 Deed regarding Saffire development, and that the company did not unreasonably delay a proposed development at Port Arthur.

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