BRIGHTON Mayor Tony Foster says Tasmania Labor’s move to phase out poker machines in hotels and clubs is a great move that will significantly benefit the Tasmanian community and economy.
Mayor Foster, a long-time opponent of the placement of poker machines and particularly their predominance in lower socio-economic areas, said they were a scourge on the community and Tasmania would be a much better place without them.
“Leading economist Saul Eslake said just this week that the next Tasmanian Government needed to be bold and make the hard decisions. This announcement by the Labor Party is an example of that very approach,” Cr Foster said.
Brighton Council has long been concerned about the proliferation of poker machines in Tasmania and because the local community has no say if, where and how many machines are located, the negative impacts far outweigh any positives.
“Poker machines have been described as voluntary taxation of those who can least afford to pay,” Cr Foster said.
“It’s a good description, but as well as the State Taxation Office and the State Government being the big winners, so is Federal Hotels as the monopoly, exclusive owner of all the machines in the State.
“Poker machines are rigged for the house to win and designed to addict. The result is that the profit-seeking of poker machine owners causes real harm to people including loss of homes, marriage break-ups, criminal acts of desperation, and worse.
“The latest, most extensive and independent research conducted by Anglicare shows that 84 per cent of Tasmanians believe the community receives absolutely no benefit from poker machines and 50 per cent of people want them removed from hotels and clubs. This community view has been consistent over the years and it’s good to see the Labor Party respond to this.”
Cr Foster said the dire predictions of hotel closures and job losses were simply scare-mongering by vested interests and scared politicians, as entrepreneurial hoteliers would promote enhanced entertainment and dining to attract customers.
“The money lost on poker machines will still be spent in the community, most likely on dining, other forms of entertainment and general household and family needs.
“The Liberal Party has already put forward its poker machine policy and it is very much a continuation of the status quo, promising to reduce the cap on the up to 2500 machines allowed in the hotels and clubs by 150. But that is disingenuous as the current number is precisely 150 fewer than the number now legally allowed.
“The Greens have mirrored their policy on the findings of the Anglicare research and want poker machines removed from all hotels and clubs.
“Now the Labor Party has announced its policy and Tasmanians have a real choice.
“They can vote to phase out these insidious machines from hotels and clubs, remove the blight on Tasmania and herald in a new era of positive community benefit from enhanced hospitality and entertainment in these venues,” Cr Foster said.