Labor's politically damaging row with the clubs industry may be over after Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he would be willing to allow a delay in the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment poker machine technology until well after the next election.
The Tasmanian MP's bargaining position with the Government was weakened before Christmas when MP Peter Slipper abandoned the Liberal Party in order to be elected Speaker with Labor support.
Mr Wilkie yesterday indicated he would be willing to agree to the pre-commitment scheme being delayed until the Productivity Commission's proposed date of 2016, allowing a trial of the technology to take place in the ACT in the interim.
''People are losing their friends, their minds, their lives, and I make no apology for trying to bring about reform as quickly as we humanly can and if we can do it a couple of years quicker, then we should,'' Mr Wilkie said.
''But at the end of the day I am mindful ... it takes time and you know we have to do it right.''
Mandatory pre-commitment requires punters to predetermine their maximum losses.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed after the 2010 election to introduce mandatory pre-commitment by 2014 in order to win Mr Wilkie's support to remain in Government.
But Mr Wilkie struggled to win the backing of other Independent MPs for the scheme and licensed clubs have been campaigning against it in Labor-held seats.
Clubs ACT chief executive Jeff House welcomed Mr Wilkie's apparent backdown on the early introduction of mandatory pre-commitment.
'It's very, very welcoming news that Mr Wilkie has finally backed down on his ridiculous stance to bring down the Government if legislation was not introduced by May,'' Mr House said.
''Now the industry and the Government and stakeholders can get back to the serious work of continuing to reduce the already low rates of problem gambling.''
Mr Wilkie denied his deal with Labor on mandatory pre-commitment was dead in the water and said he hoped to complete discussions with the Government on the issue this week. ''I intend to have much of this resolved by the end of the week and I intend to make a detailed public statement at the end of the week,'' he said.
Ms Gillard said she would not offer running commentary on the issue while talks with Mr Wilkie were still under way.
Mr Wilkie met in Perth yesterday with Western Australian Nationals MP Tony Crook, who sits as an Independent in Parliament.
Mr Crook said he had not yet decided whether to support mandatory pre-commitment.
''There's still a long way to go on this,'' Mr Crook said.
''We haven't seen the legislation on this yet, if it's drawn up even.''
ACT clubs offered last year to host a trial of pre-commitment technology, provided that the Commonwealth met the full cost.
The ACT Government has estimated it would cost between $20 million and $30 million to network the territory's poker machines as part of mandatory pre-commitment.
This reporter is on Twitter: @pjean01