Ironically, this is one Barr you don't want to line up 3 of. If you did the last thing you'd get is a jackpot or big win that's for sure....
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has ruled out Canberra Casino receiving more than 200 poker machines under a Labor government, now or in the future, after an email emerged suggesting another 200 poker machines could be on the table next year.
The email was from Brumbies general manager Simon Chester to fellow members of the Rugby Union Club board in Turner. The Brumbies have a relationship with the casino, which is their major sponsor.
In his email, Mr Chester urges his fellow board members of the RUC not to join ClubsACT's campaign against poker machines in the casino.
"The casino is getting 200 machines, no doubt at all, I believe they will get another 200 granted in the next 12 months," he wrote.
"Big clubs like the Tradies have broken away from ClubsACT and done deals directly, so it makes ClubsACT argument look weak.
"Any attempt to disrupt the government decision by running a campaign against the government is risky and potentially damaging to the club industry."
The email purportedly from Mr Chester also claims a meeting between him and Mr Barr last week, but both Mr Chester and Mr Barr categorically deny any meeting, and Mr Chester said he had only ever met Mr Barr at a social gathering.
Asked why he would claim such a meeting, Mr Chester suggested a typo or sabotage, including the possibility that someone had deliberately changed his email.
Asked to verify the rest of the contents of the email, he said parts of it were correct, but it contained "more than a few fabrications", including the claimed meeting with Mr Barr and the suggestion that the Tradies had done a separate deal. "I ... have no idea what clubs like the Tradies are doing," Mr Chester said.
The email was provided to the Canberra Times by lobbyist Richard Farmer, who has been taken on by ClubsACT to fight poker machines at the casino. Mr Farmer rejected the suggestion that he might have altered the email. He wished the contents of the email were not true, but he feared they were, he said.
In an interview, Mr Chester reiterated that he had no knowledge about whether the casino would get any more poker machines, but wanted the RUC Turner to plan as if it would and diversify, especially given the proximity of the Turner club to the casino.
"Let's not enter this debate that the rest of the clubs are having in trying to throw mud around. Let's try and engage with them [the casino]. We're interested in getting out of pokies, how can we do that?
"We know that even without the casino we need to reinvent ourselves somehow. We've got an ageing demographic, we've got an old building. How are we going to remain profitable?
"My viewpoint with my Brumbies hat on is make sure we're viable. And [as] a RUC board member, I want to make sure we're viable."
The Barr government has recently given the green light to the casino to operate 200 poker machines for the first time in its history, a decision that breaks the monopoly of clubs, who are fighting back.
Asked on Friday how long the 200-machine limit would apply and whether the government had given any indications to the casino about more machines in the future, Mr Barr's spokesman said, "We have determined that we cannot accept a proposal that has more than 200 machines for the casino."
Pushed for a more categorical statement about the future, he said, "There will never be more than 200 machines at the casino under this government." Asked about future governments, he added, "Any Labor government. This applies to next term and beyond."
Asked whether the government was considering a mandatory precommitment regimen, where gamblers nominate a maximum spend before they start, he said a range of harm minimisation measures were in the mix, with no decisions yet.
Mr Farmer launches a campaign against the Greens next week, distributing a brochure in which he urges voters to "stop the ACT Greens from supporting the foreign-owned Canberra Casino".
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