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Attorney-General applauds ACT pokies reduction

Wed, Feb 20, 10:23am by Staff Writer

The Australian Capital Territory’s Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay has announced that the number of gaming machines that can be operated in the Territory has been reduced to 4,012.

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.

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.

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.”

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

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

Further trading between clubs may reduce the number of authorisations to be compulsorily surrendered by clubs, as one-in-four are forfeited when clubs trade authorisations.

“If the number of authorisations does not reduce through trading to 4,000 by the end of February, steps will be put in place for the first stage of compulsory surrender to occur on 1 April 2019,” Mr Ramsay said.

As of January 1, 2019 clubs 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.

Labor and Greens Assembly members supported the move

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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