Pokies loom as big poll issue
AN ANTI-pokies candidate would stand a big chance in the seat of Denison at the upcoming State Election if the major parties block reform, the suspended mayor of Glenorchy says.
Kristie Johnston, who has been widely tipped to run as an independent in Denison, says pokies take millions of dollars a year from the pockets of local residents and the community has had enough.
The Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Marke ts handed down its report on Thursday, recommending a decrease in the number of poker machines.
The 15-year monopoly over pokies, held by Federal Group, is due to be revisited next year before its expiry in 2023.
The major parties have given little indication of major change. The committee resulted in two dissenting reports.
Liberal policy is to reduce the cap of 3680 machines statewide by 150. Labor is yet to come up with a policy — leader Rebecca White says she wants to consult more.
But Ms Johnston said the public was fed up and pokies would be a big election issue.
“I think both Labor and the Liberal Party have let the community down. They’ve both choked,” she said.
“Twenty million dollars a year goes into poker machines in Glenorchy and it’s unsatisfactory to hand down a report that doesn’t recommend removing them from pubs and clubs,” she said.
“Politically there’s a real risk for the parties — they’re so out of touch with what people’s expectations are.”
Ms Johnston said she had seen first-hand the impact of pokies on the community, such as children going to school without lunches.
“The community are very strong on this. They’re not going to let the issue lie.”
Ms Johnston has not ruled out running but says she is focused on standing again as mayor once the current Board of Inquiry process is complete.
Longtime anti-pokie campaigner Federal Denison MP Andrew Wilkie said he had not decided whether to endorse a candidate in the poll.
“Given that the Liberal and Labor parties have let Tasmanians down greatly on the issue of poker machines, they deserve to be punished at the next election by voters who want to see reform,” he said.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein yesterday called on Labor to release a policy on pokies.
“Labor is all over the show on this important issue,” Mr Gutwein said.
Shadow treasurer Scott Bacon said Labor was forming a policy to take to the next election.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the major parties had betrayed the people they were elected to serve.