The controversial topic of Video Poker is causing infighting in the Australian state of Tasmania. Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White is coming under fire for giving up her hard-line stance against pokies.
White told ABC that Labor would no longer fight to remove video poker machines from pubs and clubs, simply because they lost the last elections in March 2018, and Premier Will Hodgman is pushing ahead with his goal to negotiate a new license for the machines. She said:
“The fact of the matter is once they [bring forward legislation], we’re not going to be able to continue to pursue our policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs because there’ll be a new deal struck until 2043.”
Not one to let an opportunity pass him by, Hodgman has accused White of flip-flopping, possibly due to pressure from her federal party members. He said, “It’s a little ironic that Rebecca White, who said this was a most passionate interest of hers and a concern that she believed in, has now abandoned that policy position and is calling on us to rush through legislation to implement a policy that they opposed at the election.”
This has upset her fellow parliament members and supporters. Shortly after the election, White promised to continue fighting against pokies. Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor has said that if Labor can’t hold a principled opposition to gambling, how can they be taken seriously if they regain power in 2022 elections?
Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie called the turnabout a “disgusting backflip.” He continued to say, “It’s also a shocking indictment of federal Labor because we all know that the real reason state Labor dropped their policy was the pressure from their federal counterparts.”
The expected plan from Premier Hodgman’s Liberal party is to end the poker machine monopoly currently held by the Federal Group, who opposed the Labor party in last year’s elections. Their plan would call for a reduction of poker machines outside of Casinos, from the current 2,375 to 2,350, while also offering licenses to more operators.
The entire debate might be nothing more than political grandstanding, as pokies begin to lose relevance. A 2018 report showed that Tasmanians are increasingly favoring online gambling over a visit to the pub.