Pokies machine entitlement review causes heated debate between anti-gambling alliances and the gambling industry.
The gambling industry in Australia has sought out assistance from the government to commence an inquiry into the entitlements of poker machines. However, following the formal request to have a review of the “pokies” (slot machines), a group of anti-gambling supporters have expressed their disapproval with the action.
According to gambling news, the group is composed of InterChurch gambling taskforce which has a prominent individual among their ranks. Tom Costello, the Victorian Local Governance Association and the Victorian Council of Social Service, chairs the special alliance.
Treasurer Michael O’Brien has recently stated that the government would take out time to review the conditions and terms of the poker machine entitlements. The state currently holds the entitlements through pubs and clubs for a period of 10 years, however the industry believes that this is not good enough and should change to 25 years instead.
A document has been published offering several options to settle the affair, with extensions ranging from 20 to 25 years. Additionally, officials set a two-week consultation period to review and settle the issue and report back in September.
Costello challenged the fact that the review was called upon by the pokies lobby, as he deems it improper of them to do so, believing an independent panel should carry out the review. He also showed concern regarding the taxes that the government received from the pokies, which amounts to over $1 billion.
Costello remains critical over the allocated public period
Costello also expressed criticism over the assigned two-week consultation period for the public, which doesn’t allow for an open channel between the parties involved.
Auditor-General’s findings show that the sale of entitlements fell short by $3 billion, which went to the industry. Costello stated, ‘‘when the pokies industry has been effectively given $3 billion of taxpayers money in the fireside sale of licenses, it now is coming back for another taxpayer handout with its longer license request. Where is the public interest in this?’’
• Entitlements could be prolonged to 25 years
• Public can consult the deal over two-week period
• Victoria to appel $540 million settlement to Tatts
He also stressed the importance of maintaining a transparent policy and does not condone officials holding private discussions, especially about such an important issue.
“There is no justification for having this decision made behind closed doors. All submissions to the review and the interim and final recommendations to the government must be open to the public and available for scrutiny.”
O’Brien claimed that the relevant submissions to the examination will be made available for public scrutiny. “Given the failures in Labor’s 2010 gaming entitlement auction – which the Auditor-General found cost Victorian taxpayers over $3 billion – the Coalition government will ensure that probity and value for money are priorities.”
He also passed assurances about the public maintaining some supervisory rights pertaining to the review. “The fact that the community has been invited to make submissions to the review demonstrates the government’s commitment to consultation and transparency.”
Victorian state to appeal Tatts’ settlement
Premier Denis Napthine states that state of Victoria will submit an appeal against paying a settlement fee to pokies operator Tatts over a broken contract that could cost the state $540 million.
In 2012, Tatts and competitor Tabcorp lost the right to maintain the lucrative business outside Crown casino in Melbourne. The state made the decision to cancel their agreement over a decision made by the previous Labor government in 2009. Nowadays, Victoria has a policy of allowing pokies in pubs and clubs.
Both of the companies decided to take legal action against the state in 2012, as they believed that their agreement with government breached Australian gambling laws. Tabcorp asked for $686.8 million while Tatts sought a compensation of at least $490 million.
The state’s supreme court justice Kim Hargrave released a verdict whereby the government was ordered to pay $450 million plus interest to Tatts. However, Tabcop was not entitled to anything as they lost out on their compensation bid.
Napthine stated, “We will be appealing the decision with respect to this $540m, but the Labor party ought to apologise to the people of Victoria for their mismanagement of this process. We have a budget surplus this year of over $1 billion, so we can absorb this loss and we will not be increasing taxes. We will not be cutting services as a result of this.”