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Claims that Woolworths interferes in SA election as pokies battle rages

Nick Xenophon has attacked the campaign by the Australian Hotels Association targeting him in the South Australian election and has singled out Woolworths for its role in the poker machine industry.

The AHA has been running television commercials during the campaign warning voters that supporting Mr Xenophon or one of his SA-BEST candidates will put thousands of jobs in the hotel sector at risk.

 SA-BEST's policy of cutting the number of poker machines in SA by half and also introducing other measures to combat problems gambling including $1 maximum bets has created big concerns for the AHA.

Mr Xenephon slammed the ad campaign saying it was based on lies.

He said the latest research showed that poker machines actually cost jobs.

And he said Woolworths had played a role in the campaign, pointing to its stake in Australian Leisure and Hospitality, which operates hotels and their poker machines around the country.

"The great irony is that today there are people in South Australia and around the country who can't afford to buy food and the essentials of life in a Woolworths Supermarket because they have lost their money at a Woolworths’ poker machine," Mr Xenephon told reporters on Sunday.

He was backed up by the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

"Woolworths is actually interfering in this election," alliance spokesman Tim Costello told the media.

"They're doing it at arm's length through the hotels association.

"Most South Australians would be staggered to know that Woolworths is the biggest pokies operator in Australia and the biggest here in South Australia.”

Woolworths’s statement on gaming interests last month indicated the retailer took its responsibilities seriously.

“At Woolworths, our priorities and values must always match those of our customers and communities we operate in and this includes taking important steps to ensure we, through ALH, are a responsible gaming operator," group chairman Gordon Cairns said.


Leon Getler 12th March