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ACT narrowly misses poker machine reduction target

Thu, Mar 7, 9:10am by Staff Writer

The Australian Capital Territory’s voluntary poker machine surrender program has narrowly missed its 4000-machine target and as a result, nine clubs in Canberra will be forced to forfeit an extra poker machine license each.

Three clubs may be targeted to give up another authorisation each if number do not drop further through a trading scheme.

The Raiders Group, Eastlake and the Southern Cross Club group will be the hardest hit by the forced surrenders, which comes after a Labor-Greens pledge to reduce the number of gaming machine in the Territory to a maximum of 4,000.

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.

Clubs voluntarily forfeited 934 authorisations in exchange for cash bonuses and planning discounts.

12 licenses still need to be handed back to meet the cap.

Nine machines will be seized in this first round from five clubs, with no incentives offered for their forfeiture.

A host of clubs will be forced to hand back one or two machines

Two licenses will come from the Raiders Group, with one each from their Gungahlin and Belconnen clubs.

The Mawson Club, which is also affiliated with the Raiders’ clubs will also have to give up an extra license.

The Raiders Group, including the Mawson Club, gave up 123 licenses out of a total of 693, netting $1.8 million in lanning offsets.

Canberra’s Southern Cross Group will have to give up an extra license from its Woden and Tuggeranong clubs.

This is despite the group already voluntarily surrendering 126 of its 680 authorisations and reaping more than $1.9 million in offsets.

Eastlake will have to surrender another license from both its Calwell and Kaleen clubs.

The club forfeited 63 of its 363 machines in exchange for $945,000, but the government believes they should have handed back 71 licenses.

Ainslie Group’s Gungahlin Lakes Golf and Community Club will also have to surrender another authorisation, taking its hand back to 80 of 423 licenses.

Asked whether it was fair that the group was being forced to hand back another license, Ainslie Group chief executive Simon Patterson told The Canberra Times: “I guess it is what it is and the club will need to comply as the Attorney-General has now made a determination.

The territory government foreshadowed a second round of compulsory acquisitions in 2020 if the 4,000 cap is not met through this round of seizures and trading.

An ACT government spokesman said its acquisitions were about: “helping clubs transition away from gambling based revenue and making sure that clubs operate for the benefit of the Canberra community.”

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.

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay spoke positively about the poker machine surrender initiative last month saying: “I would particularly like to acknowledge those clubs that met or exceeded their surrender obligation through this process.

In a media release on the ACT Government website, Mr Ramsay said that: “the ACT Government has consistently stated its commitment to reduce the number of pokies in the Territory to 4,000.”

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