MONA's Walsh backs anti-pokies cause, as campaign ramps up ahead of 2018 election
By Natalie Whiting
Updated 53 minutes ago
The Tasmanian anti-pokies movement has been bolstered by the backing of MONA's David Walsh, with a campaigner warning if political parties ignore public sentiment on the issue "perhaps the parliamentary system needs to be disrupted".
The impending expiry of Federal Group's monopoly deed over poker machines in the state has sparked debate about the issue ahead of the 2018 state poll.
Mr Walsh, who bankrolled his Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) with the proceeds from gambling, has supported the anti-poker machine group Rein in the Pokies, which has partnered with interstate opponents to campaign against the machines, flagging the possibility of backing independents or running candidates.
"David is a very wealthy man, as we all know, and he has supported us adequately," Pat Caplice from Rein In The Pokies said.
"It costs money to take out full-page ads in papers, it costs money to put ads onto TV.
"The logistics of that has been principally by me, the financial support has of course come from outside, but I'd reiterate again that it hasn't only been from one person, it's been from a range of people."
Mr Walsh would not say how much he has contributed to the anti-pokies cause, but he has ruled out donating to political parties.
A vehement opponent to gaming machines, Mr Walsh told ABC's 7.30 in 2015 "pokies work in a different way to other gambling".
Mr Walsh said companies "design poker machines in a way that maximises the psychological reinforcement".
"It's not about the thrill of winning, its about being in the zone, having the world closed out to you," he said at the time.
That year, Mr Walsh lashed out at the Farrells, the family who own Federal Group, for attempting to use him to extend its poker machine monopoly indefinitely.
In 2017, MONA unveiled plans for expansion of it Berriedale complex to include a luxury hotel and high-rollers casino that would be off-limits to Tasmanians and poker machine free.
Mr Caplice said Mr Walsh had "brought a new paradigm to Tasmania" and the major parties "should be, if not concerned, at least be very aware of his concern".
How the Farrell family's Federal Group gained an exclusive licence to operate all of Tasmania's poker machines - for free.
"David's support is mostly the moral support that he's given and quite frankly my personal friendship with David has got me through a lot of doors," he said.
"It's that indirect influence that David has been most helpful with."
Mr Caplice said the Pokies Out Tasmania group may look to support anti-pokies independents or minor parties, or run candidates in the 2018 Tasmanian election, but is waiting to see what position Labor take on poker machines before planning its next move.
"If Labor comes on board and gives an anti-pokies option to the electorate, we'll continue solely as an anti-pokies group," Mr Caplice said.
"But if Labor don't come on board then it becomes a larger question than pokies, it becomes a question of democracy.
"If 80 per cent of the population want great changes to the landscape of poker machines and the next government, either Labor or Liberal, won't offer that to the electorate, then perhaps the parliamentary system would need to be disrupted," Mr Caplice said.