Labor Leaves Pokies Off Its Tasmania Manifesto

The labor party performs a dramatic u-turn in the run up to the Tasmanian elections

Tasmanians head to the voting polls on May 1 in the latest round of elections. The Labor party does not mention pokies in its manifesto, a complete turnaround from three years ago.

The Tasmanians last went to the polls in 2018, and it did not end well for Labor. Labor party’s Rebecca White staked her election campaign on a radical policy to remove pokies from pubs and clubs. It was a move that was never going to sit well with Tasmania citizens, especially as there is a poker gaming lobby in the island state.

White used to work in a casino and drew on her experiences to show pokies in a negative light. She spoke about the harm and damage poker machines cause, and it did not sit right with pro-gaming advocates.

Those pro-gaming enthusiasts launched their own campaign billed as “Love Your Local.” It funded statewide adverts and billboards, which urged Tasmanians to support their pubs and clubs rights to run pokies.

Labor was left on the back-foot as The Liberals received masses of donations to support its campaign. The powerful Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) and Australian Hotel Association donated $270,000 to the Liberals’ cause. It received an additional $50,000 from Federal Group, the state’s only casino operator.

Labor Performs Tasmanian Pokie U-turn

The pro-gaming campaign influenced the election, with Will Hodgman receiving 50.26% of the votes. White’s Labor trailed in second place with 32.63%. Cassy O’Connor of Greens was third with 10.30% of the votes.

Understandably, Labor is exercising caution when it comes to pokie-related issues at this election.

Labor ditched its former position on poker machines in pubs and clubs. Furthermore, it has performed a U-turn and signed an agreement with the local hospitality association to support the rights of pubs and clubs to operate pokies.

“Ultimately, we lost that election. And I think people can also say that gaming played a big part in that election,” White said. “We have an obligation to respect what the people told us the last election: you can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Kate Crowley is a renowned political analyst who thinks she knows the real reason for Labor’s change of tactics. Labor simply cannot afford to be left without substantial political donations.

“There was probably a lot of pressure within the part to turn the tap back on. And that may well have led to the backflip. We do not know that for sure, but it certainly looks that way.”

Liberals Remain Quiet on Gaming Stance

It is not only Labor who is not talking pokies; Liberals remain schtum, too. A Liberal government originally signed a deed decades ago that gave Federal Group a pokies monopoly in Tasmania. That deed expires in 2023, and an individual licence model replaces it.

Federal Group, which experienced a pokies blackout earlier this month, is not happy. It wants tax relief on the pokies it operates across its two casinos due to increased competition.

Liberals leader Peter Gutwein is yet to reveal the tax rate he and the Federal Group negotiated.

“There’s a bundle of tax rates. When the legislation’s released, people will be able to see the range of tax rates that apply, and they’ll be able to make their mind up then. Federal Group is not a winner out of this.”

Interesting times are ahead in that regard, especially because Federal Group is the Liberals’ biggest donator.

The majority of donations are anonymous, thanks to unchanged rules. Voters requested more transparency after the 2018 elections, but it has not happened. Only donations of $14,000 or more are disclosed. Both Labor and Liberals voluntarily publish contributions over $5,000. Green go one step further and reveal all political donations of $1,500 or more.