New pokies figures spark donations dispute between major parties

A new report suggesting Federal Group owners the Farrell family reaped 48 per cent of poker machine revenue from Tasmanian clubs in 2016-17 has prompted calls for the Liberals to reveal whether company donations to the party have bought influence.

Left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute commissioned Monash University public health lecturer Charles Livingstone to research the distribution of pokies revenue in Tasmania.

It comes as Opposition Leader Rebecca White faces scrutiny for attending a dinner hosted by a gaming company in Victoria in 2017, months before announcing Labor’s policy to remove pokies from pubs and clubs by 2023.

The Australia Institute report found that the Farrell family received 47.8 per cent of pokies dollars from Tasmanian clubs in 2016-17, fifty-four times more than what clubs themselves received (0.09 per cent).

While clubs were said to have received only $970,686 in net gaming revenue after tax last financial year, the Farrells supposedly raked in $52,536,678.

The report says that pubs, however, received $23,326,141 from pokies, 21.2 per cent of overall revenue.

Meanwhile, the state government’s gaming tax windfall equated to $33,106,751.

Ms White said it would not be a surprise to Tasmanians that the Federal Group benefited from most of the losses on pokies in the state.  

She said political donations did not “buy influence” over the ALP.

“What [Premier] Will Hodgman and the Liberals now need to answer is whether or not donations ... have bought influence in the Liberal Party,” Ms White said.

Mr Hodgman noted that the Liberals’ pokies policy would end Federal Group’s monopoly on the industry.

​“It’s a matter for Rebecca White … to explain how she can take money under the table in Victoria from gambling giants [and] come back here and demonise anyone who’s involved in the sector,” he said.