No plan for clubs’ exit from pokies, Victorian political leader said
A Victorian political party is calling on the state government to waive any licensing fees for clubs and venues that want to phase out poker machines.
Mirage News reports the Victorian Greens said it is cruel to make clubs and venues that were trying to do the right thing and withdraw from pokies, paying the government tax.
Clubs could be liable for licensing fees upwards of $1 million, the report said.
Ms Ratnam said RSLs were never meant to become mini-casinos and it was time for the government to give community clubs an exit pathway from pokies.
Before the last election, the Greens proposed a phase out of pokies in Victoria by 2028 and opposed a 20-year licence lock-in for clubs and venues.
At the time, the government refused to disclose which clubs would be signing up to this plan and how clubs would be able to exit it without huge financial penalties.
“The government is hooked on pokies revenue and making clubs and venues pay for their addiction,” Ms Ratnam said.
“RSLs trying to do the right thing should be supported to transition away from harmful pokies and into new forms of revenue, not met with gigantic fees that leave them with no choice but to keep their poker machines.
“It’s time the government gave community clubs an exit pathway from pokies addiction by waiving their licensing fees.”
South Australians flock back to pokies
The temporary closure of South Australia’s pubs in July to curtail the spread of coronavirus in the state has led to residents flocking to the machines since restrictions have eased.
The Sunday Mail reported in early December that South Australian’s spent $73.21 million in July, the highest monthly spend since August 2007.
The spending for the first four months of the financial year has raised concerns about the impact of machines on vulnerable South Australians.
The figures have been downplayed by the hospitality sector, who stressed the spending was a consequence of South Australians being unable to access venues for three months to do something they enjoy.
New figures from the industry and government against Consumer and Business Services showed that in the first four months of this financial year, South Australians embraced the reopening of pokies venues after they had been closed for three months in response to the pandemic.
The average monthly spend was $68.81 million, starting with $73.21 illion in July and gradually tapering to $65.46 million in October.
Poker machines at the Adelaide Casino are not included in the statistics.
SA Council of Social Services chief executive Ross Womersley said the figures are concerning.
“From our perspective, it’s much worse than going back to normal, it has gone boonta,” he said.
“The withdrawal from poker machines for many people with real gambling issues was a God send, because for the first time in ages, they were in positions where they were not spending that money and they were able to have it available to pay for their life requirements.
“We do know that there was some drift to other gambling activities but the real concern for us is if people are putting even more back in that has to be a reflection of a real increase in potential harm.