The Tasmanian arm of the Liberal Party has pledged that they will not remove gaming from Tasmanian pubs and clubs if they are re-elected in March.

The Tasmanian pub and club industries were up in arms late last year when Opposition leader Rebecca White announced that Labor intended to remove all EGMs from pubs and clubs in the state by 2023 if elected to Parliament this year.

Yesterday, Premier Will Hodgman responded with the Liberal Party’s official position, committing to the status quo in regards to gaming in Tasmania.

“The Tasmanian Liberals supports jobs, we support free choice, and we support pubs and clubs right around the state.

“Gambling is a lawful form of entertainment for many Tasmanians and a range of gaming products should be available to consumers that are fair and which provide an acceptable average return to players.”

Hodgman and his party do intend, however, to end Federal Group’s monopoly on gaming licenses in the state in 2023, when the current agreement lapses, so that pubs and clubs can own and operate their own machines. The rights to operate EGMs, table games and Keno in Tasmania’s casinos will remain with Federal Group.

Many fear that the removal of EGMs would decimate the industry and associated employment, and Hodgman made it clear that the Liberal party’s policy was to protect jobs.

“Our position on gaming has long been clear – we won’t shut down pubs or clubs by ripping out all of their machines, and we don’t believe we should be spending taxpayers money to buy out jobs and potentially close down pubs and clubs.

“Unlike Labor, we believe that Tasmanians should be able to choose how to spend their money, not be dictated to by the Government.”

Industry response

The Love Your Local campaign, an organisation comprising representatives from Tasmania’s 96 pubs and clubs, has welcomed the Government’s stance.

“The announcement today by the Liberal Government that they will ensure gaming machines remain in pubs and clubs throughout Tasmania is welcomed,” stated Michael Best, chairman of the Love Your Local campaign.

“This announcement shows Government has recognised these pubs and clubs throughout Tasmania rely on their gaming machines to keep their doors open, and is further proof the Government has their finger on the pulse in our communities.”

Best also said that the policy acknowledged that the state’s venue operators were committed to responsible gambling policies, emphasising its track record with minimal problem gambling.

“Just as importantly, the Government has recognised that owners and operators are best placed to manage responsible gambling in their local community.

“Nobody wants to see people in their community struggle with any form of addiction and the announcement today recognised that local pubs and clubs can be trusted to look after their own.

“That is why Tasmania has one of the lowest rates of problem gambling in Australia at 0.5 per cent.”

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