Former president of the Australian Hotels Association and past Chairman of Host Plus, the Hospitality Industry National Superannuation fund Greg James is alarmed that the State hospitality industry’s peak body should be drawn into supporting the current Labor government’s election campaign defence of poker machines.

Recent comments by Steven Old that the reduction of poker machines would lead to job losses are “pure ALP sponsored scare mongering and nonsense”, James says.

“Tasmanian hospitality is at serious risk of being completely consumed by the AHA’s slavish dependence on Federal Hotels’ monopoly”, says the former owner of Knopwoods Retreat and the Oyster Cove Inn.

“Poker machines not only strip capital out of main street Tasmania, they also erode a range of skilled hospitality industry positions”. The Productivity Commission could not pin-point any net benefit to Tasmania after the introduction of gaming.

“When a venue’s main income derives from gambling, the need for trained personable hospitality employees decreases, causing job losses. The employment does not involve nearly as many people to empty a poker machine as to make meals and serve in bars. Customers don’t eat or drink nearly as much when they spend the evening in front of a poker machine. Many problem gamblers have next to nothing left over to buy evening meals or drinks in the hotels hosting poker machines.”

“The fact that Mr Old is trying to defend gaming while ignoring the crisis in hotels without gaming is indicative of the slavish dependence on gaming that the AHA has developed over the past 15 years. Community gaming hotels have become extensions of the casinos and exploiters of the vulnerable; non gaming hotels are on their last legs and employing minimally and have become non-competitive, thus their traditional servicing of local communities has virtually disappeared”

Mr Old misquotes Senator Xenophon, who did state that the only advantage Tasmania had was that we did not allow ATM machines near Pokies. But we are equal in all other matters and needed to reduce our betting limits immediately.

Mr James also said that “the Labor government has also been duplicitous in not pursuing policies that allowed entrepreneurs to advance their small businesses and increased employment when they allow so much disposable income to be vacuumed up by the gaming machines”.

“We have no backpacker industry like the Australian mainland or New Zealand.

“Development of fine food and Tasmanian produce into Hotels has stopped.

“Main Street Tasmania is suffering because the gaming revenue does not reach the local newsagency, builder or dry cleaners. Families are broken apart when a parent is punished for gaming related crime.

“If Mr Old prefers this loss of employment and family cohesion then the hotel industry in this state is on a road to perdition,” Mr James said.

Earlier on Tasmanian Times, James Boyce: Why the pokies (and Andrew Wilkie) matter: HERE