Is Nick Xenophon, Australian gambling’s biggest enemy, softening his stance on pokies in 2018? That’s the impression that the long time anti-gambling agitator is giving to some of Australia’s biggest news outlets.

According to a report in the Australian, as reported on by, the man who has fought hard to pull pokies and sports betting out of public life, is now whistling a different tune. As recently as last week, Xenophon was quoted as saying:

Reducing the harm caused by poker machines is ­pretty fundamental, but it would have to be a suite of measures, including more people getting assistance and reducing the number of people getting hurt in the first place, but most people just don’t get help when they have a serious gambling problem.

Are those the words of the same man who said the following at the end of 2016?

I will never give up, whether I am in politics or not. If I was not in parliament, I would probably be litigating it in the courts every way I could. Gambling reform is part of my DNA now.

They are, and most observers of the Australian political scene are somewhat confused by the statement. Is the Pokey’s worst enemy getting ready to open his heart and mind to the joys (and tax revenues) of regulated gambling? Or is he just looking to cash in some extra support ahead of Senate elections in March?

Of course it’s possible that Xenophon is simply giving in a little because his efforts to regulate gambling in Australia have been so successful. As of this week, a host of gambling operators, like William Hill, are taking a hard look at whether or not the regulatory environment in Australia is simply too strict to support their operations. The loss of regulated operators would open opportunities for black market operators and Xenophon would have a whole new enemy to deal with.

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