Tassie treasurer allegedly lobbies for pokies group
The Tasmanian treasurer has allegedly approached the state’s Liquor and Gaming Commission on behalf of the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, a major Liberal Party donor.
The Examiner reports that A Right to Information disclosure showed the association.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein wrote to commission chair Jenny Cranston on February 27 saying: “The Tasmanian Hospitality Association has written to the Premier, the Hon Will Hodgman MP, regarding the cash withdrawal limits in gambling venues … As the Minister responsibility for gambling matters, the Premier has asked me to investigate and respond.”
Mr Gutwein sought a meeting to discuss these concerns, and after that meeting, the cash withdrawal limit was increased.
On May 15, Ms Cranston wrote a letter to Mr Gutwein advising him of the regulation change, “in the spirit of alleviating the concerns raised.”
Prior to the change, the EFTPOS withdrawal limit in a gambling venue was $200 for people paying for accommodation or meals and $100 otherwise.
This has been increased to a blanket $200.
The Commission said the THA presented it with five reasons for making the change, including that “venue staff, particularly casuals, find it difficult to remember what limits apply under which circumstances.”
Independent MLC Mel Webb said it was “unacceptable for the Treasurer to be acting on behalf of the pokies industry, to the detriment of communities that he is supposed to be representing: a despicable example of that relationship that is unacceptably close.”
A government spokesperson said the Treasurer did not lobby the commission.
“The industry raised concerns with Minister Gutwein as minister responsible for liquor and gaming regulation, these concerns were referred to the TLGC for consideration …this is an entirely appropriate process,” they said.
The THA donated $269,750 to the Liberal party ahead of the last state election.
New Tassie gaming framework released
The Advocate reported in September that the Tasmanian government’s new framework for how it intends to roll out new gaming legislation has been released.
The state opposition has criticised the framework for its lack of detail, with the premise of the new legislation to break the Federal Group’s stranglehold on gaming in the state.
The Federal Group’s current licence is due to expire in 2023.
It will legislate for individual pubs and clubs to gain their own gambling licences from electronic gaming machines.
The framework promises hotels and clubs will retain at least 50 per cent of gross return from gaming with the new deal set to generate nearly $1 billion in total state revenue over the 20-year licence period.
Hotels will be charged an EGM tax of 33.91 per cent and Community Service Levy of 5 per cent and clubs will be charged an EGM tax of 32.91 per cent and CSL of 4 per cent.
Venues will pay an annual licence fee between $1000 and $2500 per EGM, depending on the total number of machines in the venue, and the total number of EGMs in hotels and clubs will be reduced by 150, down to 2350 machines.
Current EGM venue caps of 30 for hotels and 40 for clubs will continue to apply.
A win for all – state Treasurer
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the changes were a win-win for pubs and clubs, the community and the government.
“The total revenue of nearly $1 billion over 20 years is up to approximately $320 million more than under current settings, which will provide much needed funding for health, education and other services,” Mr Gutwein said.
“We’ve been working carefully with the Tasmanian Hospitality Association with a view of providing fact sheets to the application of our policy and begin the process of constructing the legislation.”
Mr Gutwein said the government has doubled the payable CSL allowing for more funds to be invested in harm minimisation framework.
“Tasmania’s harm minimisation framework is already widely recognised as national best practice and that will not change,” he said.
THA chief executive Steve Old said the framework confirmed the Liberal Party was sticking by its election promise.
“We hope once legislation is put in Parliament next year that it gets passed as quickly as possible and our venues can get on with looking after their staff and infrastructure updates,” Mr Old said.
He said that Tasmania’s harm minimisation was at the forefront of the nation.