The NSW Labor Government’s relations with the powerful hotel industry have hit an all-time low as a result of Cabinet’s decision to allow pubs to have access to the electronic numbers game Keno. Giving Keno to the pubs isn’t handing them a jackpot, it’s a booby prize. Keno, first promised to the pubs at the 1999 state election and again at the 2003 election, is yesterday’s game.

At present Keno is exclusively licenced to NSW registered clubs and the Star City Casino where its popularity with punters is declining and so is the game’s revenue. The pubs, who have tipped millions of dollars in the election coffers of the ALP over the past 10 years, are seething because what they wanted was the multi-punter electronic horse racing game and/or the electronic “virtual” roulette game which is a favorite at NSW mega-clubs.

What will also irk the pub industry is that Keno is part-owned by Clubs NSW and Tabcorp which means that if they accept the game into their watering holes they will be giving direct financial support to their hated rivals in the club industry.

Iemma’s decision to insult the pubs with the Keno offer – it uncannily coincided with a scorching report from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics on grog-induced violence and anti-social behaviour in and around pubs – shows that Labor’s previous predisposition towards the pubs is on the wane and that registered clubs are climbing in political favor.

Why? Labor ministers are sick and tired of being heaved by greedy, multi-millionaire publicans and they now see the greater advantages – political and financial – of getting into bed with community-connected clubs and their two million members across the State.