A State Government discussion paper reveals Mark McGowan would permit the roll out of virtual gaming machines to WA pubs and clubs despite blasting an identical proposal just two years ago.
Labor’s “Future of the Western Australian TAB” discussion paper, released late last month, states the McGowan Government has agreed to consider the inclusion of ‘virtual’ or ‘simulated’ racing products as part of the sale of the WA TAB to a private operator.
The surprising disclosure came almost two years to the day that Mr McGowan, then Opposition Leader, decried such a proposal.
“WA Labor will always oppose further introduction of pokies and similar gaming machines in Western Australia because of the financial misery they cause,” Mr McGowan said in a media statement dated 28 June 2016.
In media interviews at the time, Mr McGowan described proposals to expand simulated racing as “ludicrous” and “outrageous”, before concluding “it’s bad for our State, it’s bad for the community, it’s bad for those people who can least afford it.
The Nationals WA racing and gaming spokesperson Colin Holt said Mr McGowan’s duplicity had again been exposed.
“In 2016 Mark McGowan was so desperate to become Premier he would say anything to win a vote,” Mr Holt said.
“This reckless behaviour has been to the detriment of WA’s racing industry which has sat and watched in consternation as a decision on the future of the TAB just keeps getting kicked further down the road.
“Mr McGowan’s alarmist comments around product expansion were an attempt to wed the TAB sale to the introduction of pokies.
“He chose to scaremonger instead of taking a sensible approach to product expansion. This served to dissuade the public from supporting the privatising the TAB and, I believe, has delayed the sale process at a time when the asset is losing value.”
Mr Holt, who as Racing and Gaming Minister flagged the rollout of virtual horses in WA as a way to increase the TAB’s value and the return to industry from a sale, said revenue from any product expansion should be quarantined for the betterment of the racing sector.
“In NSW, the revenue generated by the introduction of virtual horse gaming machines into pubs, clubs and TABs in 2010 paved the way for a $150 million upgrade of Sydney’s Randwick racecourse,” Mr Holt said.
“If the McGowan Government are going to go down this path there needs to be a tangible benefit delivered to the three codes and one which will allow the industry to flourish in decades to come.”