Tasmanian Labor ditches anti-pokies policy

Tasmanian opposition leader Rebecca White says Labor has no choice but to axe its pokies policy.
Tasmanian opposition leader Rebecca White says Labor has no choice but to axe its pokies policy.

Tasmania's Labor opposition has been accused of lacking backbone after walking away from a policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs.

Labor campaigned heavily on a pledge to ban electronic gaming machines at last year's state election, in contrast to the re-elected Liberal government.

On Friday, Labor leader Rebecca White said her party's policy could no longer be pursued with the Liberal's poised to bring in legislation to extend poker machine licences until 2043.

"The fact of the matter is, once they do that, we won't be able to pursue our policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs," she told ABC Radio on Friday.

Labor's anti-pokie stance prompted a massive advertising campaign from hospitality groups, who claimed the move would cost thousands of jobs.

The Liberal government, re-elected with a one-seat majority in March, argued removing the machines impinged on people's freedom of choice.

Tasmania Greens leader Cassy O'Connor and independent federal MP and long-time anti-pokies campaigner Andrew Wilkie have accused Ms White of bowing to pressure from federal Labor ranks.

"This is a disgusting backflip and a kick in the face to the thousands of Tasmanians affected by poker machine gambling addiction who put their trust in Labor to do something about it," Mr Wilkie said.

"Just when we thought a Tasmanian politician was finally showing some backbone."

Federal Group holds a monopoly over Tasmania's poker machines, with the licence set to expire in 2023.

The government has previously said it is planning to licence poker machines to individual venues when Federal Group's deal expires, and cap their number at 2350 in pubs and clubs.

Premier Will Hodgman said that would happen this term of government.

"This is Rebecca White's Kevin Rudd moment," he told reporters.

"She said it was something she believed in but now, presumably with the federal election not far away, she happy to abandon that policy despite all her claims over a long period."

Ms White said Labor would push for greater harm minimisation methods.

Australian Associated Press