Australian state could be the first to remove pokies from pubs

Pokies reforms
Tasmanians will be unable to play the pokies in pubs and clubs by 2023, under a new gaming policy announced by Labor.

The proposal, which supports pubs and clubs in removing the 2300 poker machines over the next five years, could make Tasmania the first state to ban the games from venues.

Labor has proposed the $55 million package, which will help venues make the transition, in a bid to win votes for the March state election.

While poker machines will remain in the state’s casinos, they will be phased out in RSLs, pubs, and hotels should Labor win.

Anti-poker machine advocates have praised the Labor Party for making the decision, and are urging the Liberal Party to follow suit.

The Liberal Party has previously suggested that it will open a tender for a new pokies license after the monopoly license, held by the Federal Group, expires in 2023. The Liberal Party also suggested reducing the number of non-casino poker machines by 150 units.

But the Labor Party wants to wipe them out completely, and has revealed it will divide the allocated budget up, as follows:

  • $20 million to help venues that choose to surrender machines prior to 2023″
  • $25 million loan pool which will offer long-term support for the transitioning businesses
  • $4 million for retraining staff and professional development
  • $500,000 for sporting clubs
  • $500,000 in business development advice

Labor leader Rebecca White said that the Liberals are unlikely to release the same policy, “which is the right one for the economy and the right decision for Tasmanians.”

“We have a once-in-a-generation chance to make the right decision and the right decision is to remove poker machines from our suburbs and towns and keep them in casinos,” Ms White said in a statement.

“Research shows more than 80 percent of Tasmanians want poker machines out of pubs and clubs — I have listened, Labor has listened and we are ready to do the right thing.”

She said Federal Hotels, which is a privately owned family company, would be notified that it would no longer be operating poker machines from 2023.

“The gaming deed with Federal Hotels clearly states that the earliest date notice can be given to vary arrangements is July 2018,” Ms White said.

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A report by Tasmania’s gambling regulator revealed that Tasmanians lost $110 million on poker machines between 2016 and 2017.

“The recirculation of that $110 million in the Tasmanian community has been demonstrated to increase 180 jobs across Tasmania if only half of that money is re-spent in the communities,” Ms White said.

A parliamentary inquiry committee released a report in September, reviewing the status of Tasmania’s poker machine industry.

After reviewing 150 submissions, many of which pointed out the social detriments of land-based poker machines, the committee recommended against a ban on slots in pubs and clubs.

While it did suggest reducing the number significantly, the committee did not agree with the 150 units proposed by the Liberal Party. Instead, it recommended that the government revisit the number.

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