BIG LOSS: The state that could blow up their pokies
POKER machines will be removed from the state's pubs and clubs by 2023 if Labor wins government at the next state election, the party's leader Rebecca White says.
The Opposition today released its long-awaited policy on poker machines, announcing a $55 million package to take 2375 poker machines out of venues.
"We know that the impact of gambling has a devastating effect on people and their families," Ms White said.
"Last year we had $110 million dollars lost in pubs and clubs right across Tasmania communities to poker machines.
"Removing poker machines from pubs and clubs across Tasmanian communities will mean that money is better spent supporting local jobs. Economic modelling has shown that it could provide an additional 180 jobs in Tasmania if only half that money is spent in communities."
The announcement was greeted with support from the state's peak welfare group and anti-pokies campaigners, and derision from Premier Will Hodgman, who said it would cost jobs.
The current 15-year monopoly over pokies, held by Federal Group, is due to be revisited next year ahead of its expiry in 2023.
The Liberal Party has backed a 5 per cent reduction in poker machines statewide to 3680, while the Greens have called for the removal of electronic gaming machines in pubs and clubs.
Mr Hodgman said his government would campaign strongly against Labor's new policy.
"I heard about Labor's policy on my way to Cradle Mountain to announce more investment in this state," he said.
"Instead Labor wants to take jobs away post 2023 if they are in government.
"This policy will affect Tasmanian business. Tasmanians will be hurt and jobs will be taken away, hotel operators have told us that."
But TasCOSS CEO Kym Goodes hailed the announcement as brave and bold leadership.
"This is one of those moments - much like the announcement of how Tasmanians voted on marriage equality a couple of weeks ago - a moment when we can feel meaningful change in the air," she said.
"The overwhelming majority of Tasmanians will feel represented by this policy announcement and it bodes well for a future where the power and strength of the Tasmanian people sits at the core of our vision for the future of this state."
Labor's policy would encourage venues to voluntarily remove poker machines ahead of a 2023 deadline for their total removal from all venues except casinos.
Ms White said $20 million in transitional support would be provided, as well as a $25 million loan pool to provide long-term, low-interest loans plus grants for staff retraining and development.
Money would also be provided for business development advice and direct grants to sporting clubs.
Recent studies suggest there are about 8000 Tasmanians considered to be problem gamblers, with a social cost estimated at up to $184 million each year.
In September, the Joint Select Committee on Future Gaming Markets handed down a report recommending a "significant reduction" in the number of poker machines in the state - but stopped short of recommending their complete removal from pubs and clubs because the six committee members had been unable to agree.
Labor has come under fire for its slow response on the issue, but Ms White has insisted she wanted time to properly consult with community and industry groups before coming up with a final position.
Long-time anti-pokies campaigner, independent federal member for Denison Andrew Wilkie, was thrilled by the announcement.
"I welcome Labor's commitment today that, if elected, they will remove all poker machines from hotels and clubs by 2023," Mr Wilkie said.
"This announcement today is a win for those who have been tirelessly campaigning for meaningful poker machine reform."
The state's hospitality union sounded a cautious welcomed.
"A policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs is in line with the majority views of Tasmanian communities and the majority of Tasmanian United Voice members," said the union's branch secretary Jannette Armstrong.
"We have been actively engaging in the Labor Party's consultation on this issue throughout the year and United Voice has been very clear that there needs to be a balance between jobs and community concerns about poker machines."
Comment was being sought from Federal Group and the Tasmanian Hospitality Association.