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Host Leon Compton sought the candidates’ thoughts about the fact that each adult around them in the shopping centre lost, statistically, $700 each year to The Pokies and that reform wouldn’t occur as the parties were effectively bought by The Pokies lobby.

Federal Denison candidates debated The Pokies on 936 Morning Radio, broadcast from Northgate shopping centre. Host Leon Compton sought the candidates thoughts about the fact that each adult around them in the shopping centre lost, statistically, $700 each year to The Pokies and that reform wouldn’t occur as the parties were effectively bought by The Pokies lobby.

Andrew Wilkie agreed that Labor and Liberals aren’t strong on Pokies reform and are in lockstep with the industry. In highlighting the $2 million lost each month in Glenorchy he spoke of the scale of the problem Australia wide, 100,000 people addicted losing $5 billion a year. He advocates harm minimisation with $1 bet limits and mandatory pre-commitment as his key solutions.

Labor’s Jane Austin seeks a balance between the social connection The Pokies create and the harm that she, with a suicide and mental health background, sees as their effect. She does not support The Pokies, hates them in fact, wants to wait until the upcoming state Parliamentary Select Committee in The Pokies is complete before coming to an informed position but believes she would be a strong and progressive voice against Pokies in a Federal Labor Government.

Liberal Marcus Allan’s position is that The Pokies are legal and legitimate gambling devices. He acknowledges their harmful effect but claims that, since 2010, there is a populist movement in support of The Pokies. He sees the community levy created by Poker Machine losses as a positive and the regulated environment of The Pokies in comparison to online gaming as a benefit.

The Pokies section of the debate runs from 36.50 minutes to the 1.08 hour mark: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pe8Qb2nVZQ?play=true

Rein in The Pokies’ comments, and our order of voting preference, on The Pokies issue at least.

1) Andrew Wilkie. Twice elected on his anti-Pokies position. Shafted in his 2010 Pokies reform when Federal Labor felt the power of Clubs Australia, the Pokies industry lobby group, and political circumstances allowed them to renege on promised reforms. Wilkie, along with South Australia’s Nick Xenophon and The Greens, would continue to be a voice of reform Federally.

2) Jane Austin. As an opponent of Pokies wants to be a strong advocate against them in Labor’s Federal caucus. The same caucus that was swayed so heavily by Clubs Australia’s well-funded lobbying when Labor was in a position to, in fact had agreed to, implement Pokies reform. On top of funding and pressure from The Pokies industry the labour movement, through their clubs in Canberra, was directly supported by Poker Machine losses.

Her reliance on the upcoming state Select Parliamentary Committee to come to a conclusion that will support the widespread community call to remove Pokies from the suburbs rather than supporting the big end-of-town is a mere hope. The state Labor leader, Bryan Green again this week saying that the last 15 year Pokies deal has been a good thing.

3)Marcus Allan echoes the Main Guiding principles for gambling as set out by Peter Gutwein for the upcoming Parliamentary Select Committee on The Pokies. That Pokies are legal, that if they are fair and offer a fair average return to the players they are legitimate. He doesn’t mention the fairness of the addictive elements of Poker Machines nor fairness of the fact that the House Edge, the high amount the machine retains for each $1 bet, will ensure those addicted will lose quickly and, inevitably, lose all. He argues that they are “legal” but fails to question if that legality is appropriate or too extensive.

He sees the community levy as a benefit. 4% extra in losses taken from players outside the 2 casinos. 14 cents for each dollar bet is lost at Wrest Point. 18 cents for each dollar bet is lost at all the Pokies’ Pubs in Glenorchy. These extra losses make “the community fund” that funds worthwhile community assets. The fund operates independent of Government although the Liberals did recently try to bring it under ministerial control to effectively create a handy pork-barrel slush fund. He may see increasing an already ridiculously high House Edge by 4% as a benefit, Rein in The Pokies doesn’t.

He compares the problem of online gaming to The Pokies. The annual loss on Pokies is $13 Billion. The combined annual loss on racing and online gaming is $4.4 billion. Pokies are the real and present problem.

The “populist movement” supporting Pokies he dates from 2010 would be the same populist movement funded and operated by The Pokies industry through Clubs Australia. This populism would appear to be at odds with the over 80% of Tasmanians who want further and substantial restrictions on Pokies.

*Rein in The Pokies is a community anti-Pokies pressure group supporting the TasCoss-led Community Coalition for gaming reform. The Coalition seeks to have The Pokies restricted to the existing casinos at Wrest Point and the Launceston Country Club. Follow Rein in The Pokies on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rein-In-The-Pokies-191187691233681/?fref=ts

*Pat Caplice is (a bio is on its way)