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Australia's second-largest company accused of interfering in state election

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Staff Writer | March 12, 2018
Australia's largest owner of slot machines has been accused of interfering in a state election where the machines are a key issue.
Nick Xenophon
Australia   Woolworths Limited
Woolworths Limited, Australia's second largest company by revenue, has drawn the ire of South Australia (SA) BEST Party leader Nick Xenophon for its involvement in a wide-scale smear campaign directed at SA-BEST.

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) has run a series of television commercials warning that a vote for Xenophon's party will put thousands of jobs at risk.

Xenophon has promised to cut the number of slot machines in SA in half if elected premier in Saturday's state election.

He said that Woolworths, which is best known for its ownership of one of Australia's largest supermarket chains, was indirectly involved in the AHA's campaign through its stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality which operates hotels and their poker machines.

"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," Xenophon told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday night.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform sided with Xenophon, saying Woolworths should sever its ties with the AHA.

"Woolworths is actually interfering in this election," spokesman Tim Costello told Fairfax 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."

SA-BEST has fallen behind both the incumbent Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Liberal Party of South Australia in recent polls having initially been considered a threat to defeat both of Australia's major political parties in what would have been a historic victory.

The ALP under the leadership of Jay Weatherill is considered the favourite to win a historic fifth consecutive term in office.