Page 3251 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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from one’s hard-earned money, it is axiomatic that there would be some decline in poker machine takings. That is the case.

I am also aware at this point in time that clubs are stating quite openly they are reducing the support they are giving here and there as a result of that. I think the club industry has to come to terms with the fact that at this stage it is selling alcohol at subsidised prices—I think it is $2.80 for a schooner. One would not get it for that price by any means at any pub, tavern or up-market hotel. Of course, clubs are also subsidising food and other services that they are providing to members. I think it will take some time for this to shake out.

When full smoking bans are in place we will see a further decline in poker machine takings, as a higher than normal proportion of pokies players smoke. They will have to go outside to smoke. However, a sensible compromise has been reached in relation to the provision of smoking spaces. That has been criticised but I think a sensible plan and code have been put together. So the clubs will be faced with difficulties.

The downside is: what do we do? Do we just allow the problem gambling issue to go unaddressed? No. Do we allow smoking in enclosed places, which will have a negative impact on non-smokers? No, we do not.

In the short term the government will evaluate—I have already given instructions for such an evaluation—the impact of changing and ramping down note accepters. What effect has that had on problem gambling as opposed to the effect that it has had overall? The process has not yet been in place for a year. Right now we are setting up the procedures and prescription for that examination to be carried out immediately so that we can confirm, or not confirm, the fact that the measure taken in relation to note accepters has had a genuine impact on problem gambling, as opposed to an impact on club takings.

In the main I think most clubs should be able to manage their affairs with a 5 per cent or 6 per cent margin off the top of their poker machine takings. Some clubs, by virtue of their capital structures, internal structures and the regime that they had, were fairly highly geared and are feeling the pinch. This Assembly unanimously voted for that legislation.

MR STEFANIAK: I ask a supplementary question. In light of these disturbing developments, will the government reconsider its proposed additional gaming tax to take effect in 2007-08?

MR QUINLAN: That is on the long finger. It is on the long finger because we know there will be an impact from note accepters. Members should remember that we were putting the budget together not long into the period of the reduction of note accepters.

We know from experience elsewhere that there will be an impact as a result of the smoking bans. Those things will be taken into account. That is why those taxes were not implemented immediately. When that tax is introduced, clubs in the ACT will pay a tax regime that is equal to the lowest in Australia—a tax regime that was set at the Victorian level.

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