Premier Will Hodgman.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has backed pokies within his state ahead of a 2018 election. (Image: news.com.au)

Pokies will remain a strong presence in Tasmania if the Liberals return to power, much to the dismay of the party’s political opponents.

Despite pokies being one of the most politically charged topics in Australia, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman has pledged to keep them live within the state.

Announcing the policy during a visit to Glenorchy on January 9, Hodgman said that the popular gaming machines wouldn’t be outlawed if the Liberal Party was re-elected.

State Shouldn’t Impede Personal Choice

Insiders expect an election to take place in March and the Labor Party has promised to get rid of pokies from pubs and clubs by 2023. Sensing the potential backlash to this position, the Liberal Party’s Hodgman has said that it’s not the state’s place to tell people what they can and can’t do with their own money.

“We fundamentally believe that Tasmanians should be able to exercise choice and to participate in gambling activities in its various forms,” the Premier told reporters on January 9.

As well as supporting pokies, Hodgman is working to bring two more live casinos to the state, but he has stated that the number of gaming machines would be reduced by 150. Additionally, the new pro-pokie policy will see venues receive more revenue from the games they host.

Under the current system, the government and the state’s lone pokie operator, the Federal Group, receive the majority of the money generated from the betting terminals.

However, should the Liberals retake power, they’ll distribute around 50 percent of each game’s revenue to the host venue.

More Money for Local Business

Money will also be set aside for problem gambling, an issue which affects around 8,000 Tasmanians according to recent studies. In response to the announcement, Labor leader Rebecca White has hit back saying that the policies further entrench pokies and the “misery” they bring within the state.

However, despite the issue of problem gambling, Hodgman believes his system will put measures in place to help those in need. Moreover, Treasurer Peter Gutwein told the crowds in Glenorchy that a problem for the minority shouldn’t impact the enjoyment of the majority.

“I want to make the point that 99.5 per cent of Tasmanians are able to gamble responsibly and we believe as a party very strongly people should make up their own mind about whether or not they gamble and importantly where they gamble,” said Gutwein.

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