Page 3076 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017

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Many in the clubs sector openly acknowledge that a change in their business model is required. Consumer tastes in Canberra are changing. There is increased competition in food and entertainment, where Canberra’s vibrant economy offers a wide range of choices. Changing demographics and competition from alternative gambling products mean that gaming machines are declining in popularity. Clubs in the territory know that a business model that depends on gaming machine revenue is not sustainable. The government recognises this and the government is going to support clubs to make the change.

Diversification away from gaming machines will be supported both through this legislation and through a related grants program. The bill will improve the community’s access to social impact assessments; it will give a 50 per cent gaming machine tax rebate to eligible clubs and club groups, which provides income support for new investment; and it will reduce regulatory burdens around tax lodgement and payment requirements. The changes to social impact assessments in this bill reflect its broader harm minimisation agenda. When a club wants to introduce machines or increase the number of machines at a particular venue, it is required to apply to the Gambling and Racing Commission first. Members of the community can make submissions in relation to an application and the commission must consider their views in making a decision.

A social impact assessment is required as part of the application process. These assessments provide the commission and the community with an objective piece of analysis on the economic and social effects of a club’s proposed changes. Currently, they are made available for interested members of the community to read, but only in physical form and only at the Gambling and Racing Commission’s offices. The bill provides for social impact assessments to be published online, in addition to how they are currently made available. Following this change, it will be easier for people to get information about proposed changes to the number of machines in their neighbourhoods and to have an informed say.

The key provisions in this bill, and the ones that deliver Labor’s election commitment, are about reducing the need for clubs to rely on gaming machines in the first place. The bill defines small and medium clubs and club groups as gaming machine licensees, or groups of licensees, with aggregate gross gaming machine revenue of less than $4 million for the financial year. The definitions have been crafted to ensure that related clubs—for example, the Woden and Dickson tradesmen’s clubs—are counted as one entity for eligibility purposes. Eligible clubs will receive a 50 per cent discount on their gross gaming machine revenue tax. The rebate will assist small to medium clubs and club groups in exploring or investing in alternative revenue streams to the gaming machine revenue on which clubs can be heavily reliant. Diversification of revenue sources by clubs will support a more sustainable future for this important sector of the ACT community.

The tax rebate takes effect on tax liabilities from 1 July 2017. Eligible licensees will be able to apply for a partial refund of tax that they have paid to date, and this can be offset against future liabilities. Provision has been made in the bill for the repayment

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