James Boyce delivers open letter calling for poker machine ban in pubs and clubs

POKIES: Tasmanian historian James Boyce holds an open letter to Will Hodgman and Rebecca White calling for poker machines to be removed from pubs and clubs.
POKIES: Tasmanian historian James Boyce holds an open letter to Will Hodgman and Rebecca White calling for poker machines to be removed from pubs and clubs.

Tasmania’s peak hospitality body has warned it could launch its own campaign if Labor decides to support the phasing out of poker machines in pubs and clubs. 

Opposition Leader Rebecca White has continuously said the party was waiting on the release of recommendations from a gambling inquiry to form its policy.

But previously, Ms White would not rule out compensating pubs and clubs for removing the machines. 

A Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets is examining the state's electronic gaming markets from 2023 and is due to hand down its report this month. 

On Thursday, Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive Steve Old said businesses with poker machines were beginning to worry about their future. 

“Poker machines are a legal thing that venues can have in them and it’s the choice of the venue if they want to have those machines,” Mr Old said.

“To regional areas it’s just one part of what the entertainment is in those venues so it’s allowing them to keep staff employed, it’s allowing them to do infrastructure upgrades and keep them alive.

“The conversations I’ve had with my members is that they don’t support a buy-back scheme.” 

Ms White said the party was waiting for the committee’s final report to be released to help inform its position.

The Labor Party reportedly met on Thursday night to discuss its policy on pokies being confined to casinos. 

“We’re using this opportunity to engage with the community, to engage with the industry,” she said. 

“We’re interested in doing what’s right based on the evidence and making sure we always put vulnerable people first.” 

The news came as Tasmanian historian James Boyce handed a letter to Ms White and Premier Will Hodgman calling for poker machines to be removed from pubs and clubs. 

The letter was signed by 75 Tasmanian business owners, but Mr Boyce said he did not ask businesses with poker machines to sign.  

“Even though many of the businesses did recognise the economic benefits of removing poker machines, what they were most concerned about where the families and individuals in their own communities who were suffering,” he said. 

“We didn’t ask the businesses with poker machines – we did that deliberately because we felt that obviously the issue is more complex and fraught for them.” 

Treasurer Peter Gutwein said shutting down pubs and clubs could have a “detrimental impact” on some smaller Tasmanian towns.

“We will reduce the number of poker machines in 2023 by 150, but we won’t be shutting down pubs and clubs,” Mr Gutwein said.