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Sports Betting

MS McRAE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Stefaniak in his capacity as Minister for Sport. Minister, my question is in regard to sports betting in the ACT. In asking the question, may I remind you and the rest of the Assembly that the legislation regulating sports betting in the ACT was supported by all - including the Opposition and the Independents - last year. Up to date, the only current public explanation being offered about the cessation of the proposal for sports betting is that it will not raise sufficient revenue, and the only other explanation which I have managed to receive thus far for not establishing a sports betting hall in the ACT has been the reduction in the turnover tax in the Northern Territory. Minister, only two bookmakers operate in the Northern Territory. Even if their tax payable to government has been reduced by 2.05 per cent, it is not clear to me why you should stop the six highly reputable applicants in the ACT from going ahead. Would you please explain why the sports betting auditorium has not been proceeded with?

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I thank the member for the question. When the Liberal Party formed government, I, the Chief Minister, the Deputy Chief Minister and a number of advisers looked long and hard at this matter over a period of some weeks. It became clear to us that, since the matter was raised last year and since the amendments were made to the betting Act which enabled sports betting to proceed in the ACT, a number of things had happened. Firstly, the Northern Territory had dropped its taxation rate to 0.5 per cent for national bets and to 0.25 per cent for international bets. Tasmania also had dropped its rate to 0.48 per cent. A number of problems were raised with us by some individual bookmakers and other experts in the area. In terms of the amount of money the Government was meant to put in to set up sports betting and the problems that were mentioned to us, we decided that it was best not to proceed at this point in time. I am currently having further discussions, and the Government is having further discussions, in relation to this matter. If that situation changes, the Government will then proceed. But, at this point in time, the sums basically do not add up, and no-one could indicate to us that it was a really viable option for the ACT to proceed at this point in time.

MS McRAE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I am pleased to hear that the Minister is at least continuing to consider the matter. Does the Minister really believe that the Government's financial situation is so good that it can afford to forgo potential revenue? The outlay for the Government is simply in the setting up of the auditorium and the monitoring. All the advice I have, which is from at least six reputable bookmakers, is that the proposition is, in their opinion, a goer and, therefore, ready to be taxed by the Government.

MR STEFANIAK: I am interested that Ms McRae asks, as a supplementary question, “Does the Government think that its finances are in such a good state that we can forgo revenue?”. Our finances are not in a good state, Ms McRae, thanks to the former Labor Government. We find ourselves with some significant financial difficulties, which we are grappling with in the context of the budget. Of course, if we felt that there

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