|Online betting group Betfair Australia's offer of hospitality to Tasmanian politicians has backfired, with several upper house MPs saying it may damage the consortium's standing ahead of a crucial vote.|
Premier Paul Lennon yesterday confirmed he enjoyed 'a couple of glasses of wine' provided free in the Crown casino marquee at the Melbourne Cup last week.
He also confirmed he stayed at the casino, owned by Betfair joint venture partner Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd, but says taxpayers picked up the tab.
Two days after the race, Mr Lennon announced his Government would introduce legislation clearing the way for a gaming licence to be issued to Betfair Australia to operate an online betting exchange.
The consortium also offered some upper house independent MPs - whose votes will decide the fate of the legislation - hospitality at PBL's ACP marquee on Derby and Cup days. No Legislative Council member took up the offer and several MLCs said they were offended by it, given that it was made so close to the licence legislation being introduced.
Independent Windermere MLC Ivan Dean told The Australian the offers could negatively influence MPs' perceptions of Betfair.
'Why would they want us to be their guests when they knew very well these bills would be coming into the upper house?' Mr Dean said. At the very least, the ‘absolutely inappropriate’ offers of hospitality would mean Betfair's supporting information would be examined more closely.
Betfair needs the votes of at least three of the 10 independent MLCs.
Betfair Australia spokesman Andrew Twaits insisted there was nothing improper in the hospitality offers: 'We were keen to talk to interested groups. It was a terrific opportunity to do that in a relaxed, or less formal, environment.”