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Australian Capital Territory to lose 1,000 poker machines in 2019

Thu, Nov 29, 12:40pm by Staff Writer

The Australian Capital Territory has introduced gaming reforms that are set to have a major impact on the Territory’s clubs and gaming venues.

The Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 was recently approved by the ACT Legislative Assembly.

It will force clubs to give up some of their poker machine licenses from April 2019.

The Bill is designed to achieve the aim of reducing the number of poker machines allowed in the ACT to 4,000 by 2020 according to the Canberra Times.

Under the terms of the new Bill, the state’s sports, social and cultural clubs will be required to surrender 20 per cent of their poker machines on two dates – April 1, 2019 and April 30, 2019.

The government has offered A$12,000 cash incentives to small and medium sized clubs until the end of January next year to partially offset the loss in revenue from the forfeiture of machines.

This will reduce the total number of machines in the ACT by 1,000, a key election pledge by the ruling Labor Party.

The Bill was introduced at the beginning of November and will also increase the level of net gaming revenue to be given to community causes by 0.8 per cent.

Community causes scheme redefined

As of January 1, 2019 clubs will be 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 compared to New South Wales which was 15.5. The nation figure is 9.8.

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