Federal Group pushback in Tas pokies deal

The company that has held a monopoly on poker machines in Tasmania since 1973 has challenged the proposed end date for their licence and raised worries about an increased risk of criminals infiltrating the industry.

© Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS Guy Barnett says Federal Group has had sufficient notice of changes to pokies licences in Tasmania.

Legislation to end Federal Group’s exclusive ownership of electronic gaming machines and give control to individual pubs and clubs is expected to come before state parliament in October.

The Farrell-family owned company, which runs Tasmania’s two casinos plus 12 pubs in the state, is among 26 parties to make a submission on the draft legislation.

Federal Group claims the earliest date the proposed changes can be implemented is July 2026, three years after the Liberal state government’s planned start.

The company says it has not been given proper notification of the proposed changes under a 2003 deed between the Crown and the company.

The “rolling term” deed ensures the company is provided with “at least four year’s notice of any changes to the arrangements”, Federal Group claims.

Federal Group says implementing the changes as planned on July 1, 2023 is “highly inappropriate and represents a sovereign risk event”.

The Liberal government took the policy platform to the 2018 state poll and released detailed legislation in July, two months after its third-straight election win.

“I’m advised that the government is very confident in terms of its position, with advice (to Federal Group) being given back in 2018,” government minister Guy Barnett told reporters on Monday.

“We’ve had an election campaign and the views were made very clear as well.”

Federal Group is also “very concerned to ensure that the most stringent background, probity, and integrity checking should occur for all future gaming licence holders and their associates”.

“Moving from the current model to the proposed future arrangements will dramatically increase the number of gaming licence holders in Tasmania,” general manager Daniel Hanna writes in the submission.

“This will significantly increase the risk associated with criminal influences and activity becoming part of the Tasmanian gaming industry.”

Anti-pokies campaigner and federal independent for the Hobart seat of Clark, Andrew Wilkie, says Federal Group’s submission was penned by a company used to calling the shots.

“Federal’s coffers in particular have grown fat off the misery of poker machine addicts for decades,” he said.

“Its monopoly on this insidious industry should never have been allowed in the first place.” 

The state government says Federal Group will be $25 million worse off per year under the legislation, which includes changes to the tax rate on poker machines and Keno.

Federal Group, which made revenue of $108 million in 2018/19, employs almost 2000 Tasmanians.

Mr Wilkie has called for the state government to introduce harm minimisation measures, such as slower spins and $1 maximum bets.

Anglicare estimates Tasmanians lose $200 million per year on pokies.

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