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Wrest Point Casino, from the Federal Group Tasmania’s website, here

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When Alderman Helen Burnet asked me to come and film a forum on pokies I figured it would be just another talk-fest with the same old figures and sad stories trotted out for everyone to be collectively disgusted. I’d heard it all before, it’s tragic but whatayagunnado? To my utter surprise, by the end of the forum a strange emotion had welled up in me.

I was angry. Really angry.

Like most people, I know a bit about addiction. Many of my dearest friends have at times morphed into strangers as a result of various addictions. I too struggle discreetly with my own unhealthy habits which at 32 have already taken a permanent physical toll. Addiction is serviced by availability. The easier it is to satisfy a need, the faster and more damaging the consequences. For this reason, among many others, poker machines are particularly destructive. The availability of pokies in Tasmania is sickening - one for every 84 people of gambling age - among the highest ratios anywhere in the world.

And you CAN NOT beat them. I recently read of a school teacher who told his class that they had a better chance of picking up a poker machine and carrying it out the front door of a hotel undetected than seeing a return on their money.

Now we love to cut down tall poppies in Tasmania. Whether it’s slagging off Jan Cameron for selling sweatshop goods or blustering that it’s time for Punter (sorry, couldn’t resist) to retire. Therefore I feel it only natural that we should be looking a bit closer at Federal Hotels.

The face and front man of Federal Hotels is Greg Farrell. The Federal Group is currently owned and operated by the Farrell Family, consisting of Greg Farrell (Managing Director), John Farrell (Director of Business Development), Julia Farrell (Director of Interior Design), Deborah Lee (Board Member, [nee Farrell]) and Jane Farrell (Board Member) (according to Wikipedia here).

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Greg Farrell picture from Federal Hotels website, here

This is what The Federal Group says about itself:

Federal Hotels Ltd began in Victoria in 1885 and is the world’s second oldest hotel group. Chairman of Federal Hotels Ltd in 1969, Mr Greg Farrell Snr, was a man of vision and in that year purchased the Wrest Point Riviera Hotel on Hobart’s River Derwent. Mr Farrell Snr’s dream was for Wrest Point Riviera Hotel to become Australia’s first legal casino - a dream that materialised with the opening of Wrest Point Hotel Casino in 1973.

Federal Hotels Ltd, now known as the Federal Group, is today a diverse, multi award winning privately owned company, run by Greg Farrell Snr’s five children, with Greg Farrell Jnr (pictured) the Managing Director. The company has expanded significantly in the past 38 years, with the opening of Country Club Tasmania, creation of the Vantage Hotel Group and Network Gaming, and the evolution of an inspiring statewide tourism brand, Pure Tasmania.

At iconic destinations, Pure Tasmania unites Tasmania’s most unforgettable experiences and finest accommodation; Freycinet Lodge, Strahan Village, Cradle Mountain Chateau, and the internationally acclaimed Henry Jones Art Hotel. Opened in June 2010, the jewel of Tasmania, Saffire Freycinet, heralds a new level of luxury in Tasmania and is a defining milestone in the evolution of Pure Tasmania.

Beyond fine accommodation, Pure Tasmania delivers a multi-sensory travel experience, with a focus on fine local cuisine plus world-class experiences like Gordon River Cruises, West Coast Wilderness Railway, The Bonnet Island Experience and the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery, incorporating the Tasmanian Tiger Exhibition.

With its origins - and its future - firmly established in tourism, hospitality and entertainment, the Federal Group is one of Australia’s most dynamic companies and is Tasmania’s largest private sector employer. The Federal Group enjoys an enviable reputation and is an organisation that values a culture of mutual commitment built on strong core values.

The Federal Group has a long history of generously supporting a wide range of organisations, including community groups, sporting clubs, charitable causes, the arts and major events. The nature of this support includes sponsorship, donations and philanthropic giving.

A successful and widely respected Australian owned family company, the Federal Group’s commitment to Tasmania, and to its employees, now spans five decades. From Federal Hotels, About Us, here

This uber-wealthy Sydney-based collective takes $600,000 a day from our most vulnerable communities via their monopoly on the State’s poker machines.

Federal Hotels is not so much a tall poppy. It is a tall Triffid - reaching a venomous funnel-tipped stem into the wallets of Tasmania’s blind addicts.

It is a Triffid allowed to flourish because Tasmanian politicians are cowards who toe the corporate line ... they are the Overseers for The Masters. Federal may argue with some justification that all they are doing is clever business to make a quid. They are law-abiding citizens who simply do business according to the law. Their deed of pokies operation was approved by Labor and Liberal politicians. All true ... but law that allowed this Deed to fuel this Triffid is an ass ...

... As James Boyce, a Tasmanian historian and social policy consultant, revealed so eloquently in an article published on Tasmanian Times way back on Friday, November 5, 2004: Pokies: This is a scandal.

Defenders of this status quo also maintain that business is business ... but this is redolent of a business morality that is so cold and dispassionate as to be, in my view, immoral.

Because there are living, breathing human beings involved. Not machines. Rich Bastards. Poor Bastards ...

So this got me thinking - why is it that so few people in Tasmania think about where their hard-earned is going when the habitually feed their grocery money into these flashy, musical rubbish bins?

These days when we light up a cigarette we are forced to confront gut-churning images diseased organs and brilliantly written slogans about the many dangers of smoking. I recently heard someone make the point that if you had a plain packaged poker machine that took up to 15% of all the money you put in it, do you think anyone would go near the thing? Better still, plain packaged with a picture of Greg Farrell’s mug on it.

But, if you ask the proverbial man in the street who owns the Federal Group, 9 times out of 10 you are greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. This has to change.

My plan is to start a viral campaign that focuses on who owns the poker machines. Federal… and who controls Federal and its absolute monopoly on these cancerous wealth transfer machines.

To this end I have started up a YouTube channel where I will be producing and publishing video content. I realise that to stand up to a mob like Federal can cause all sorts of problems in a small place like Tasmania, but fuck it. Anyone on the island with half a social conscience is bound to get blackballed sooner or later. A quick Google search reveals that Federal is carefully media managed so any sort of reaction from them will only draw attention to their pokie interests. Of course I am not so naïve as to think such a campaign is going to bother the Federal Group too much, but it will certainly be interesting to see where it goes.

For the time being I have pretty much given up on Government doing anything to stop Federal’s electronic poker machines ripping off Tasmanian’s to the tune of $600k per day. They are never going to stand up to this mob due to conflicts of interest with various tourism ventures, sponsorship deals and ‘commercial in confidence’ plans all over the state. With all due respect to Andrew Wilkie and the Tasmanian Greens (and they deserve huge credit for their tireless efforts), I really think they are pissing into the wind. I’d like to believe otherwise but history has shown that political action on this devastating industry is about as likely as Jack Newton swimming across Bass Strait.

This is serious issue that needs to be addressed. We all know the figures, now it’s time to do something about it. I am open to suggestions (email below) as to how to get the faces behind Federal into the consciousness of all Tasmanians. When people feed money into pokie machines they need to know where it is going. Many organisations across Tasmania are already doing their bit, from the local music industry that has had their venues obliterated by Oasis’s (after the Gallagher’s did their worst in the 90’s) to groups such as the Salvos and TasCOSS. It’s time to step up the campaign and expose these people and what their electronic poker machines are doing to our communities.

Whatcha say folks?

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Here is good straight-forward account on how Pokies take your money without you realising it. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2733166.html So simple it’s frightening.

• This is an edited version of a blog post that appears here

• Pat Caplice:

I am a Glenorchy lad. I despise Federal Hotels and the principal people behind them, led by Greg Farrell.

I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Glenorchy. Working, playing, living and sort of maturing there through the ‘80s too. Hell, I was even Junior Mayor when I was in grade 6 and played footy for the Pies. 6 senior games in 3 years before my skill level took me to the amateurs;  still Northern Suburb based and with the team supported first by The Racecourse Hotel and later The Carlyle Hotel.

I knew the pubs. At 16, asked by licensing why I was in the now demolished Racecourse Hotel when the law said 21, I cheekily got away with “I am 18 and the law is changing in a couple of months” The Valern, Cooleys, The Russell, The Mustard Pot, The Club, The Granada, The Carlyle. I knew and loved them all. I even spent 4 years chefing at The Carlyle, finishing in 1990.

Yes the pubs functioned around booze. But they were also centres for community social activity. As the chef at the Carlyle I suppered the bar 4 or 5 nights a week. 8 ball, darts, mens womens and mixed competitions. Hundreds of people involved in a social activity that, while not be everyone’s cup of tea, wasn’t inherentally destructive.

The Carlyle, in those days, prospered on its hospitality. The Dining Room seated 250 and would turn over more than 350 covers on Saturday nights. Cooleys had the same style operation. The Russell, now the Brooker Inn, serviced the Zinc Works, opening early morning with breakfasts for the night shift. The Granada, Peter Hudson’s pub, operated on the same hospitality and entertainment basis. My answer on Rockwiz will be “George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at The Granada Tavern”.

The Glenorchy I describe was working class, hard working and aspirational. What happened after 1990 for it now to be viewed simply as “boganville”? The pokies I say.

All of the pubs, except The Mustard Pot, are now bloodsucking leeches called Oasis. The community has $1 million dollars taken away from it each and every week. People have lost their marriages, houses and even their liberty.

Who profits. (2010 figures. Thanks John Lawrence)
The state? Nope. The state rakes in $50 million a year but the cost, both of the actual collection cost and the social destruction far outweigh that.
The pubs. Well yes, but not that much. $15 million a year before costs and even then Greg’s mob cherry-picked venues. With only 1 in 10 pub pokies Federal rakes in 1/3 of pub player losses.
Federal Hotels. Oh yes. $150 million. (before costs and tax)
That’s where the $215 million in losses went. $50 million of that from Glenorchy.

What is Federal Hotels? It is a company, but it isn’t really a “what”. There are people behind it, principally Greg Farrell and his siblings, older sisters Julia and Deborah, twin brother John and younger sister Jane.  This lucky mob own Malawa Holdings which owns Federal Hotels, plus some trucks and some horses. Malawa Holdings paid $96,000,000 to these 6 people in the last 6 years alone.

• POKIES LOSSES DOWN BUT PLUNDER CONTINUES
Over $100-Million Gone Between Jan-May 2012

Kim Booth MP
Greens Gaming Spokesperson
Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Tasmanian Greens said that the latest data on poker machines revealed a welcome drop in the number of poker machines operating in Tasmania, but that the huge losses remained.

Greens Gaming spokesperson Kim Booth MP said that the Treasury figures showed Tasmanians collectively lost $16,205,541 in May, which was down by close to $1 million on May 2011.
Mr Booth said that the number of poker machines also fell by 25 during June to 3685.

“Losses to pokies in May were about a million dollars down compared to the same period last year, but that’s hardly good news when you consider the roughly $17 million that’s still being lost every month,” Mr Booth said.

“Fewer pokies means less harm to the community, but our aim should be to get rid of these machine locusts from the community altogether.”

“Tasmanians collectively handed over more than $100 million to the casino industry in the first five months of 2012, and a large proportion of that has to come from problem gamblers.”

“It is not good enough that in the face of this evidence the Liberal and Labor parties’ to continue to sit back and watch Tasmanians losing millions every month.”

The Greens remain the only party to support:

• $1 per spin bet limits.

• ‘Plain packaging’ for poker machines.

• Requiring casinos to contribute 4 per cent of profits toward the Community Support Levy, in line with what pubs and clubs pay.

• Legislating for local councils to have a say on pokies numbers and locations in their municipalities.

“We regard these as interim steps toward an eventual full roll-back of poker machines from the community.”

“We have already tabled legislation for a $1 bet limit in State Parliament, and also an amendment to allow local councils a say. All that’s now needed is for either Labor or Liberal to publicly commit to supporting these Bills when they are debated.”

Link: Electronic Gaming Machine Expenditure by Rolling Year
http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/domino/dtf/dtf.nsf/alls-v/CD36BFC11D136484CA2575E10006E703

First published: 2012-07-16 05:04 AM

• Financial Review: Gambled away: pokies swallow carbon tax compo
PUBLISHED: 11 hours 56 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 0 hour 44 MINUTES AGO

Suue Mitchell, Gemma Daley and Fleur Anderson

Handouts to low-income earners under the federal government’s carbon tax scheme have led to a surge in gaming revenues at pubs and clubs, prompting calls for the compensation to be paid as credits rather than cash.

Poker machine revenues in Queensland jumped more than 7 per cent in May – when the first Clean Energy payments went out – and rose almost 12 per cent in June year on year, according to Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation figures. Other states are yet to release electronic gaming machine revenues for June, but in local government areas such as Bendigo, they rose 8.6 per cent in May – well above the Victorian average of 1.4 per cent.

Poker machine operators such as Coles and Echo Entertainment have also seen stronger gaming and entertainment revenues in May and June, when the government began handing out more than $15 billion in carbon tax compensation to pensioners and low-income families.

Nomura gaming and retail analyst Nick Berry said the surge in gaming revenues in the past two months ­echoed the spike in gambling activity and discretionary spending triggered by the federal government’s stimulus payments during the global financial crisis.

Stephen Mayne, an independent candidate for the Melbourne by-election this weekend, is campaigning for a maximum $1 bet on poker machines.

“Governments that deliver cash handouts to people on Centrelink benefits each time will cause a spike in poker machine revenue and that should be a concern because that is the highest concentration of people who use them – that is the tragedy of pokies,” Mr Mayne said.

“People who are vulnerable have less money and a greater tendency to be addicted.”

Mr Mayne said the carbon tax compensation would have been better delivered as a credit at a consumer’s power company, given that is where households will feel the impact of carbon pricing the most.

However, Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball tried to play down ...

REad the full feature story in the AFR here

• Use the TT News Dropdown men (top nav. bar)  for breaking news/comment on this important story ...

• POKIE BARONS PLUNDER CARBON COMPO MONEY
Tasmania Should Brace for Similar Losses, Or Worse!

Kim Booth MP
Greens Gaming Spokesperson
Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Tasmanian Greens said poker machines were in the spotlight again today as one of Australia’s worst social cancers, with new Queensland figures showing that a proportion of the compensation paid under the new carbon price had been gambled away.

Greens Gaming spokesperson Kim Booth MP said Tasmania could expect a similar increase in financial harm from gambling losses when the Treasury released its monthly pokies loss figures at the end of the month.

“This is a disaster, and it once again clearly demonstrates why we must act now to protect Tasmanian families from these deliberately hypnotic machines that ultimately destroy the user’s future,” Mr Booth said.

“To see that money designed to compensate for increases in cost of living now being lost to pokies is just appalling.”

“The solution is not to go on blaming the victims of poker machine addiction, it’s about putting in place genuine harm minimisation measures like a bet limit of $1 per spin, to prevent people losing their entire pay packet at a sitting.”

“Governments need to wake up to the reality that pokies are a social cancer that splits families, drives up crime rates and leads addicts into suicidal depression.”

“Tasmanians lose more than $200 per year to poker machines, which is why the Greens support a $1 bet limit, plain packaging for pokies and mandatory pre-commitment, as temporary measures leading to an eventual ban.”