Page 1779 - Week 06 - Thursday, 14 May 2015

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The bill includes amendments to the act which will provide clubs with access to a gaming machine trading scheme. For the first time, licensees will be able to trade gaming machine authorisations in an open market. The introduction of the trading scheme is underpinned by a new licensing and authorisation framework. The new framework supports trading and reduces administrative burden without compromising the integrity of the industry.

Under the bill, the number of authorisations for gaming machines in the ACT will be reduced in two phases. Phase 1 includes a forfeiture arrangement, with gaming machine authorisation traded between licensees subject to a one-in-four mandatory forfeiture. This phase also provides for a quarantining of gaming machines and authorisations to enable structural adjustments within the industry. Phase 2 implements a maximum ratio of 15 gaming machine authorisations per 1,000 adults in the ACT. Clubs, except for our smaller clubs, will be required to surrender authorisations on a pro rata basis to the extent needed to meet the ratio. The one-in-four mandatory forfeiture of traded authorisations will no longer apply during phase 2. The bill provides opportunities for hotels and taverns to divest themselves of outdated class B gaming machines by allowing existing establishments to sell their authorisations to operate these machines to the clubs, through the trading scheme.

Beginning on 1 July this year the existing tax-free threshold for gaming machine revenue will increase from $180,000 to $300,000 per annum. In addition, a new tax rate will be introduced for revenue above $7.5 million per annum. These changes will result in a marginal increase in the revenue to government over the long term, noting that on commencement they are revenue neutral. The arrangements for community contributions are unchanged within this bill.

The bill repeals a number of outdated functions, including but not limited to existing provisions relating to gaming machine pooling arrangements and the existing arrangements for large and small-scale gaming machine relocations. The bill reaffirms that the Gaming Machine Act 2004 will continue as the primary legislation for controlling gaming machine operations in the ACT and retains the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission’s responsibility for the administration of gaming laws and control, supervision and regulation of gaming machine operations in the territory. Without compromising that strong regulatory oversight, the bill provides for a move towards a risk-based regulation in a limited number of areas, with the aim of improving regulatory arrangements for the club industry.

The government will continue to work with the clubs industry to provide information and support during the implementation of the trading scheme and other changes introduced through this bill.

During the bill’s development due consideration was given to compatibility with human rights and it has been examined in accordance with section 37 of the Human Rights Act 2004. The bill is compatible with the act and as such a memorandum of compatibility was issued and is presented to the Assembly today along with the bill.

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