MOFO Festival Founder Slams Tasmania's Pokie Culture

28 October 2015 | 3:51 pm | Staff Writer

David Walsh hates pokie machines.

MOFO promoter David Walsh has blasted Federal Group CEO David Farrell after claiming that his plans to build a high roller casino in Tasmania were being used to extend the poker machine monopoly in the state. 

The Farrell family through The Federal Group run Tasmania's two casinos, as well as the gambling license monopoly and every poker machine in the state. 

Speaking on ABC's 7.30 program last night, Walsh who is also the founder of Hobart's Museum Of Old And New Art (MONA), which hosts the annual MOFO and Dark Mofo festivals, revealed that despite its growing popularity is losing money each year as costs continue to rise.

To combat the loss Walsh intended to build a casino he called Monaco, however he withdrew from negotiations with Farrell and the Hodgman State Government last month after he refused to agree to their terms.

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Walsh claims that Farrell would only agree to Monaco being built on the guarantee that Walsh would agree to an ongoing extension of the Federal Group's gambling license beyond 2023 and for as long as his casino operated. 

"[There are] 2,000-plus compulsive gamblers in Tasmania that play pokies and it doesn't augur well for those individuals and it doesn't augur well for those around them," Walsh said. 

"Insidious is the word I use... the companies that design these pokies machines design them in a way that maximises the psychological reinforcement, it's not about the thrill of winning it's about being in a zone and having the world close out to you."

Though he made his fortune as a professional gambler years earlier, Walsh made no secret that he believes poker machines are having an increasingly negative impact on the state. 

"The community is affected by problem gambling," Walsh said. 

"The correlation between poker machines and low income earning areas seems to be positive and it clearly should be negative."

Farrell hit back at Walsh's withdraw by threatening to pull $100 million of investments, including a new hotel to be built at Port Arthur, unless he gets a guarantee over the Monaco license. 

The State Government are yet to approve the gambling license, to which Walsh questioned whether the Federal Group are influencing the decision. 

"Who is making the decisions? Is Federal making the decisions?" Walsh asked. 

"I certainly don't think I've got the right to make the decision. I would have thought it was the Government and the community but I don't seem to see it playing out that way."

The Federal Group declined to comment, though in a statement denied having any influence over the awarding of gambling licenses.

Earlier this year Dark Mofo boasted a massive line-up of musical talent and artists including Antony & The Johnsons, Marina Abramovic, Anthony McCall, Patricia Piccinini.

MONA's next MOFO festival will take place in 2016 from 13-18 January and features over 300 acts on the bill. 

Among the huge list of artists include US rockers The Flaming Lips, Australia's own Kate Miller-Heidke and UK artist Evelyn Glennie - click here for a look at next year's line-up.