While Labor politicians in Tasmania are pinning their electoral hopes on a bold plan to remove pokies (slot machines) from all pubs and clubs in the state by 2023, one of Australia’s major gambling operators is campaigning against the plan.
The Federal Group, which owns a license that gives them a monopoly on gaming in the state, has vowed to fight any plan that would take poker machines away from Tasmanian pubs and clubs.
Already, the group has launched a media campaign that includes advertisements on television, radio, and social media in order to combat the proposal.
Ads Feature Workers’ Fears Over Labor Proposal
The ads are designed to highlight workers who currently staff the venues where pokies are located throughout the state. This is in line with the most common criticism of the Labor policy: that eliminating the gaming machines will cost jobs throughout the hospitality industry.
According to Federal Group Managing Director Greg Farrell, 11 staff members who are featured in the ads all volunteered to be a part of the campaign.
“They gave up their holidays to film content for the campaign, providing unscripted responses to questions on their feelings about Tasmania, Federal Group and the future,” Farrell said.
The ads feature a variety of employees sharing their concerns about what could happen to them should the Labor policy be implemented.
“My job could go very, very soon if Labor get in, so that’s very important to me,” said Mark Cleary, a trainer and assessor for Network Gaming. “I feel I need to stand up for myself and my family.”
White Says Opposition Ads Were Inevitable
According to Labor officials, however, the ads amount to little more than a scare campaign. They have pointed to a recent report that showed the gaming sector only employs about 300 full time workers in total, putting into question suggestions of massive job losses if the pokies were taken away.
“I’m not surprised to see that happen,” Labor leader Rebecca White said of the advertising campaign. “I’ve no doubt there will be vested interest who’ll run ads who promote their own position. But to us the evidence is clear that poker machines are damaging our community.”
The current Liberal government in Tasmania has confirmed that it will allow poker machines to remain in the state should the party win the upcoming elections, which are expected to be held in March.
“We fundamentally believe that Tasmanians should be able to exercise choice and to participate in gambling activities in its various forms,” said Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman.
However, the Liberal policy may still pose challenges to the Federal Group. The current government has vowed to end the operator’s monopoly, allowing individual venues to obtain licenses to operate poker machines after the current agreement ends in 2023.
The Liberal proposal would also include putting a cap on the number of pokies allowed in pubs and clubs, with a maximum of 2,350 allowed throughout the state.
More money would be assigned to minimizing the harmful impacts of gaming, and both venues and the state government would take larger shares of the revenues derived from poker machines.