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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, will call for a referendum on the future of poker machines in Tasmania beyond 2023 when the Federal monopoly expires.

“Tasmania has held three referendums, including one in 1968 on Australia’s first casino licence for Wrest Point (when, ironically, Federal was opposed to poker machines and vowed never to introduce them to Tasmania),” Mr Wilkie said. “It’s now time for a fourth to decide the future of poker machines in the State.

“The sorts of questions that need to be asked are: do we want poker machines; do we want them in our pubs; and should the operator pay full market price for this extremely valuable public licence? While putting such questions to voters at next month’s state election is a live option, at the very least candidates must indicate their position on the notion of a referendum being held before poker machine reforms go before the next Parliament.

“The sad fact is the Liberals and Labor can’t be trusted on this issue because they’re both proposing to give away the right to operate poker machines – worth hundreds of millions of dollars – to the gambling industry as a taxpayer-funded thank you for the big donations they’ve pocketed over the decades.

“What do you think? Is it good policy to forgo up to $500m in revenue when the state has a billion-dollar COVID debt? This decision will determine how much money we can spend on our schools, hospitals and social housing.

“Poker machines cause enormous social and economic damage in our communities, contributing to childhood poverty, crime, domestic violence and suicide. It’s no wonder polling consistently shows 80 per cent of Tasmanians want poker machines reduced in numbers or removed.

“A referendum is the only honest way to determine the future of poker machines in Tasmania. This should be our decision, not the industry that profits from them or the politicians who profit from the industry. The community is the only honest broker here.”