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poker machines and Tasmania’s election

Labor and Liberal Parties are in disagreement regarding keeping poker machines in pubs and clubs draws which may result in a hung parliament.

When the Tasmanian opposition leader Rebecca White announced she would ban poker machines from pubs and clubs if she became premier it was a challenge to not just the Liberal government, but a company that is used to getting its way in the state.

The Sydney-based Farrell family has been a dominant presence in the island state since the late 1960s, when it was awarded a licence to turn the Wrest Point Riviera Hotel on the banks of Hobart’s River Derwent into Australia’s first casino.

The rights to build Launceston’s Country Club Casino followed a decade later; exclusive licensing rights for pokies in pubs and clubs came in 1993.

A string of lucrative deals with Labor and Liberal governments has made the Farrells incredibly wealthy. By 2015, according to the BRW rich family list, they were worth $463m, up $48m from the previous year.

Tasmanians lose $110m a year on gaming machines and about 2,000 are problem gamblers, mostly hooked on pokies.

In December, White surprised the state, and the gaming industry nationwide, with a promise to use the expiration of Federal Group’s exclusivity deed to force more than 2,300 pokies to be removed in five years. Tasmania would become the first state to get gaming machines out of hotels, and join Western Australia in restricting them to casinos

Tasmania has a long history of powerful and wealthy voices having an outsized influence on public policy. As the state begins a five-week campaign to a 3rd March 2018 election its anyones guess as to the outcome.

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