Tourism hub pokies promise bombshell
STATE Government is promising no more pokies on the Gold Coast for a global tourism hub but it's not what its bureaucrats are conveying in consultation with interested parties, sources claim.
Bureaucrats are saying State Government is "open" to sourcing pokies outside the Gold Coast for a global tourism hub (GTH) resort, claim sources consulted on the project by bureaucrats.
The bombshell claim - from multiple people who have met State Government officials doing preliminary consultation with pubs, clubs and potential investors - directly contrasts State Government's commitment not to increase city pokie numbers for a GTH.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones has made the promise in Parliament under questioning by Opposition MP David Crisafulli and she has repeated it since.
A source from the investment community - recounting what was conveyed "recently" by a Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development bureaucrat - said: "Government is open to either securing EGM (electronic gaming machine) entitlements from other pub and club operators in Gold Coast or from elsewhere in Queensland...will depend on number of slots sought by new operator".
Another source at a separate GTH consultation meeting claims a bureaucrat suggested Ms Jones "made a mistake" when promising there would be no extra pokies on the Coast for a GTH.
The source claims the bureaucrat added she should have said there would be no increase in pokies in Queensland for a GTH on the Gold Coast.
When the Bulletin put all those claims to Ms Jones this week, it initially prompted an embarrassing admission from top bureaucrat, Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, Director-General, Damien Walker.
He told the Bulletin he had "reiterated" to his team a Coast GTH was to be pursued with no net increase of pokies.
"Our instructions from the Minister are clear - there is no pre-determined site on the Gold Coast for the Global Tourism Hub," he said.
"I can also confirm we have been asked by the Palaszczuk Government to pursue this Global Tourism Hub opportunity with no net increase to Electronic Gaming Machines on the Gold Coast.
"I have reiterated this message to my team," Mr Walker said.
Ms Jones said: "I made a commitment to no net increase in poker machines on the Gold Coast as a result of a Global Tourism Hub.
"I stand by that commitment. The government has no preferred site for a Global Tourism Hub.
"I have appointed an independent panel of Gold Coast business identities, chaired by John Witheriff, to lead consultation with locals.
"We'll continue this process to make sure we get the best outcome for Gold Coasters," she said.
A GTH could create thousands of jobs but nothing would be approved without "strong support from locals", she said.
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said Ms Jones had "wedged" herself: "She is trying to say one thing to Parliament and residents but behind closed doors her bureaucrats are having to say another thing to get this up."
Told about the claims, a spokesperson for incumbent casino operator Star Entertainment Group said: "All we know is the Minister has made a commitment to no increase in poker machines."
Clubs Queensland CEO Doug Flockhart recently wrote to members to saying State Government had been "taking the temperature" of surf clubs and RSLs on their appetite for releasing 1600 pokies for a GTH and at what cost.
Mr Flockhart, whose letter was revealed this month in the Bulletin, said at the time he doubted Coast pubs and clubs would make 1600 available and they would need sourced statewide.
The investment community source also claimed the tourism bureaucrat recently noted "public land is available for a new casino operator depending on the attractiveness of their proposal".
Southport's publicly-owned Carey Park site is understood to be one of 11 secret sites put forward by State Government as GTH options.
The source claimed the bureaucrat they met with about a Gold Coast GTH also said State Government was:
- looking a proposal that lifts tourisms and adds high-end hotels;
- hoping to sign off on something before the State Election;
- wanted proponents to outlined preferred locations, pokie machine numbers and tax rates.