Tasmanian Labor ponders position on poker machines

Tasmanian Labor says that it will meet formally as a caucus to discuss its gaming policy as soon as a parliamentary report on the industry is released in a fortnight.

The government in parliament this week put sustained pressure on the opposition to release its policy, suggesting that the party was split on the issue on whether to ban electronic gaming machines (EGMs) from pubs and clubs.

Key groups in the state’s social service sector have been calling for poker machines to be confined to the state’s casinos for the past year.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White said while Labor stood up for workers and vulnerable people, it would need to balance its position with the needs of the hospitality industry.

“We have said repeatedly that we will wait for that report and that will help us inform our position,” Ms White said.

“Then we will take it to the party room meeting and have a debate about what the best solution is to address this very complex issue.”

Tasmanian Hospitality Association general manager Steve Old, on Thursday, threatened to run a fierce campaign against Labor in the upcoming state election should it decide in favour of the removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs.

He said his members did not support any sort of buy-back scheme; a proposal mooted in parliament this week.

“We haven’t started out campaign about this but if the Labor Party wants to start a campaign in pubs and clubs … bring it on,” Mr Old said.

“I said to its leader three days ago: ‘If you want to take us on, I wish you the very best of luck and we will know who will win the debate’.”

Ms White responded:

"They've made some very clear statements about what their intention is but they're a member organisation and have the right to represent their people and their views.”

About $113 million a year is spent on poker machines in the state's pubs and clubs annually.

The Federal Group has a monopoly on poker machines until 2023.