ACT gambling tax rakes in millions

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
ATO seeking assistance in obtaining unpaid tax

One Australian territory government is raking in plenty of cash thanks to a new online betting tax.

The Canberra Times reports that the ACT government is taking in more than five times the cash it expected from the new tax.

While it will lose significant revenue from poker machines, force to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, part of the losses will be offset by an increase in other gambling taxes.

When it introduced the tax, the government said it expected to make about $2 million a year from it.

However, in the month of May, the government said it had received $10.2 million in the 2018-19 financial year.

The full year’s takings are likely to be greater than that number, but the government was unable to provide the figure when asked.

While a proportion of pokies revenue in the ACT must go back into community organisations, the same arrangement does not exist for online gambling.

Community clubs and problem gambling funds reduced

Opposition gaming spokesman Mark Parton questioned whether the increased online betting revenue was behind the government’s refusal to allow pokies to reopen.

“They are the biggest bookmaker in town and it is no wonder that they want to shut down any of their competitors because this really is the goose that has laid the golden egg,” he said.

An ACT government spokesman said the additional revenue gained would indirectly help the community, industry and businesses from support provided through the territory’s economic stimulus packages.

“It will offset a portion of overall lost gaming revenue. It is however a fraction of the overall revenue decline the Territory is currently facing,” he said.

The spokesman said the initial $2 million prediction was a cautious estimate, based on assumptions around the level of online betting by ACT residents in the absence of any actual data.

“Revenue estimates have adjusted in subsequent years as we have more actual data,” he said.

The spokesman said he was aware of some reports that online gambling spending may have increased during COVID-19.

He said regulation of the industry was best tackled on a national level, with the cooperation of the states and territories.

ACT Council of Social Service chief executive Emma Campbell said more needed to be done, through reform, to protect Canberrans from gambling harm.

But she said even with an increase in online gambling, pokies continued to cause the most significant harm to the Canberra community.

“We need to protect vulnerable Canberrans from harm arising from all types of gambling – pokies as well as online.

“While ACTCOSS recognises the important role that community clubs play in Canberra, much more needs to be done by clubs and the Government to diversify revenue away from pokies,” Ms Campbell said.

Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said the figures showed even with pokies out of action, people were still betting.

“Online operators can opt to contribute to the gambling harm fund, but very few do and certainly not at the same proportion of income as our clubs do,” he said.

“When the point of consumption tax was introduced, we recommended diverting nearly half, if not all, of this windfall to problem gambling and community purposes.

“Instead the ACT government seems happy to reap returns from gambling so long as it is online and essentially hidden away.

“Canberrans are betting, but instead of profits helping those impacted and our community organisations, they are instead being eaten up by interstate and international companies and the government itself.”

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