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Canberra clubs cashing in on pokies reduction

Mon, Feb 25, 1:16pm by Staff Writer

The biggest clubs in the Australian Capital Territory are cashing in following the Government’s poker machine reduction plan.

The five biggest clubs in Canberra forfeited about 60 per cent of the 934 poker machine authorisations already surrendered, receiving approximately $8 million in planning offsets, according to The Canberra Times.

Clubs in Canberra were faced with two options: either voluntarily surrender their gaming machine licenses for cash and planning offsets, or face having the government seize them if almost 1,000 authorisations were not voluntarily forfeited.

Vikings Group – the biggest player in the gaming machine space, owning 715 of 4,942 poker machine authorisations in Canberra – will receive $2.1 million in government offsets for forfeiting 140 licenses.

Trading statistics from November 2018 showed Vikings had 621 machines on the floor across its four clubs, meaning only 46 machines would actually come off the floor.

The Southern Cross Club Group will surrender 126 of its 680 authorisations in order to receive just shy of $2 million in offsets at $1.927 million.

The organisation has only 594 machines on the floor, with the surrender meaning just 40 machines will be removed.

The Labor Club Group will hand back 106 of its 542 authorisations, getting $1.59 million in offsets in return. It will only need to remove 53 machines off the floor.

Raiders Group will surrender 93 of its 528 authorisations, receiving $1.396 million in planning discounts. With 484 machines on the floor, it will remove 49 machines to comply.

Smaller clubs also reimbursed

Some of the territory’s smaller clubs have also cashed in on the bonuses.

The Magpies Group forfeited 25 of its 43 authorisation in order to receive $625,000 in planning discounts, none of which will come from the floor.

The president of the Magpies board, Andrew Smith, said they negotiated the deal with the government in late 2018 in order to transform their old Kippax club into a health centre run by Ochre Health. The new medical centre has just opened its doors after months of refurbishment.

Mr Smith said closing he 40-year-old Kippax club last July was “not a decision made lightly” and it was a “very emotional time for members and board members.”

“We actually thought diversifying away from gaming revenue was a wise move for the club long term; rental income from a tenant is much more sustainable and management,” Mr Smith said.

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,” ACT Attorney-General Gordon 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.”

The 4000-poker machine cap is part of Labor’s parliamentary agreement with the Greens, with Greens leader Shane Rattenbury pleased with the reduction.

Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said the Greens were relying on “the research of an anti gambling activist whose shortcomings as a gambling expert were highlighted in a recent court case,” when responded to the Greens leaders push to further regulate the industry after a report from Dr Charles Livingstone.

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