Mayor calls for referendum on pokies

BRIGHTON Mayor Tony Foster has repeated his call for a referendum at the next Tasmanian State election, asking the people of Tasmania if they want electronic gaming (poker) machines in hotels and clubs.

Mayor Foster says the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee, currently considering the future of gaming in Tasmania must take account of the views of the community in reaching its recommendation.“For too long, too many Tasmanian families have suffered from electronic gaming machines ripping money out of the community. Unfortunately, successive governments are as much addicted to gaming tax revenue as the casino owners are to the profits from pokies in pubs and clubs around the State,” Mayor Foster said.

The Parliament established the Joint Select Committee to inquire into and report on the Tasmanian gaming regime from 2023 onwards.

“I hope that it gives sufficient weight to community concerns, rather than be influenced by the vested interests of Federal Hotels (who own all the poker machines as well as the State’s two casinos) and Treasury bureaucrats who only want to preserve the government’s tax take and avoid the extra work involved in establishing a more competitive and fairer gaming environment,” Cr Foster said.

Cr Foster appeared before the Committee on behalf of the Brighton Council and the local community.

He addressed what he said were two key issues – community attitudes, particularly to poker machines and credible socio-economic studies that clearly point to the damaging and destructive impact of this form of gambling.

“I reminded the committee members that the issues, concerns and problems we faced today were the same, if somewhat exacerbated, as those that I and the Brighton Council had raised some 20 years ago and Brighton and other councils had highlighted over the intervening years.

“Community attitudes are unchanged. People do not want poker machines in our communities and we particularly do not want them in lower socio-economic areas.

“However, successive State Governments and Oppositions have adopted a cynical approach. While politicians may have questioned the number of poker machines and the misery they cause while in opposition, they readily support it in government because of the massive taxation take.

“Considering the attitudes of the majority of our politicians, I wonder if it is at all possible for the Select Committee to make a decision that fairly considers whether the people of Tasmania actually want to see electronic gaming machines in our pubs and clubs.

“However, a referendum on the issue would enable the Tasmanian public to clearly state its view on whether Tasmanians want poker machines in pubs and clubs, or if they would rather see them confined to the two casinos.

“We can only hope that after 20 years of community concerns, our Members of Parliament will finally listen to the people of this State,” Cr Foster said.