The AFR had an interesting story this morning suggesting the Bracks Government was about to delay its decision on a new lotteries licence for Tattersall’s until after the state election. It seems the company will instead be given an interim 12-month extension.

When added to the uncertainty surrounding the $2 billion Tattersall’s pokies licence, which expires in 2012, this should give Unitab shareholders some food for thought ahead of their vote on the so-called $4.4 billion “merger of equals” in Brisbane on 15 September.

Since the merger proposal was first announced, the political debate around poker machines in Victoria has hotted up considerably.

The Age’s Ken Davidson columnised on the issue today and People Power’s hard-line anti-pokies policy has caused considerable debate. Indeed, ABC Victoria’s Jon Faine said our position was setting up the election to be a referendum on poker machines.

In this context, surely Unitab shareholders are taking a huge punt by voting to merge with Tattersall’s just 71 days before the state election. Unitab shareholders should wait until after the election before deciding whether it is worth taking on all that political risk.

It is absolutely material to this merger that Professor Linda Hancock, the ousted head of the Bracks government’s Gambling Research Panel, has announced that she is standing in the election on a policy platform that would decimate the Tattersall’s share price. This new information should be considered by shareholders because Tattersall’s is the single most government-dependent company in the top 100.

Indeed, as part of her campaign, Linda is contemplating a tilt at the Tattersall’s board this year and that would ratchet up the political pressure even further. I’m a Unitab shareholder who is across the detail of this issue and believe the merger is a bad deal for the Queenslanders because the potential downside with Tattersall’s is huge.