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12 poker machines left in voluntary ACT plan

Mon, Feb 18, 11:14am by Staff Writer

The Australian Capital Territory’s bold plan of reducing poker machines in the state is a step closer to completion, with just 12 poker machines authorisations remaining until the government reaches its goal.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay will announce on Monday that 934 machine authorisations by ACT clubs have been either voluntarily surrendered or forfeited through trading, at a cost of about $14 million.

The ACT government planned to reduce the number of machines in the territory to 4,000 by 2020.

The government offered $12,000 in cash incentives to small and medium clubs for every gaming machine they gave up, while larger clubs were offered discounts on land-related costs.

A reduction in the number of available licenses is significant, but the reduction in the number of machines will not align to those levels.

In November last year, there were 4,283 machines in operation across Canberra’s 44 venues, well below the 4,982 authorisations owned by clubs.

“It is great that the club industry has engaged in the voluntary surrender process laid out by the Government,” Mr Ramsay said.

“I would particularly like to acknowledge those clubs that met or exceeded their surrender obligation through this process.

As part of the process, the Southern Cross Yacht Club decided to remove gaming machines all together.

The club would receive extra benefits for taking this move, the Attorney General said.

While 12 authorisations remain to be voluntarily surrendered, if they are not by the end of February, the government will compulsorily remove the licenses, although it is believe to be unlikely that this will be required, according to the Canberra Times.

The compulsory acquisition process would begin on April 1, with half removed this year and half next year.

The policy to reduce the number of poker machines in the ACT by 20 per cent was part of an agreement between the Labor and Greens parties after they formed government after the 2016 election.

Community focus for increased revenues

As of January 1, 2019 clubs will were required to hand over 8.8 per cent of revenue, of which 8 per cent has to be given to recreational, social or cultural projects, organisations that deal with substance misuse or addiction or organisations involved in women’s sport or disaster relief.

This follows a scathing audit of the scheme in early 2018 that found clubs were often using the community causes scheme to support professional sporting teams more than junior teams or funding gambling harm reduction programs.

Claims for professional sports – including wages, coaches and other staff – will be banned, unless they are explicitly for women’s sport.

Clubs that fail to meet their required community payments under the scheme will be forced to pay a fee of 150 per cent of the underspend through the scheme.

The Labor and Greens Assembly members supported the legislation, but the Opposition did not.

Liberals gaming spokesman Mark Parton voiced concerns the government had failed to properly consult with the community over the changes and had ignored Clubs ACT.

Despite not meeting with the peak clubs group about the changes after the group’s request, ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said he had offered two meetings with government officials to the group, which Clubs ACT was unable to attend.

The final changes to the Bill introduced on Tuesday included clubs being required to formally report any community contributions made to political parties or their associated entities.

A report written by Monash University gambling expert and harm minimisation advocate Dr Charles Livingston found that the ACT is lagging behind all other jurisdictions when it comes to poker machine regulations and revenue.

The density of machines in Canberra is second only to the poker machine gambling capital of New South Wales.

The ACT’s average poker machine tax take is the lowest in the nation, despite a moderately progressive tax rate, while the number of machines per 100,000 residents was 14.8 in 2015-16.

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