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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

ACT Government nears pokie target

Twelve gaming machine authorisations are all that stand between the ACT Government achieving its goal of reducing the number of poker machines in the Territory to 4,000.

On Monday 18 February, ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the maximum number of gaming machines that can be operated in the Territory has been reduced to 4,012.

The ACT club industry has voluntarily surrendered, or forfeited through trading, a total of 934 gaming machine authorisations.

The Southern Cross Yacht Club removed their poker machines in 2016 – putting them in storage – but are now officially pokie-free having surrendered them as part of the reduction process.

Canberra Southern Cross Club CEO Ian Mackay said having poker machines at the venue “didn’t fit with the vision of the Southern Cross Yacht Club” which is one of a “family destination for sailing and casual dining”.

Across their venues, Mr Mackay said the Canberra Southern Cross Club (CSCC) surrendered 126 machines, roughly 20% of their total fleet; of these, 86 were already in storage with 40 removed from the gaming room floor.

“Overall the process has been smooth,” Mr Mackay said. “No doubt the surrender of that amount of machines has an impact on our revenue but it was flagged far enough in advance that we could make our diversification plans.”

For the CSCC, diversification includes a focus on food and beverage and creating function and event centres, as well as health and wellness reflected in the Stellar development and the operation of five other gyms in Canberra.

Meantime, Chair of Canberra Community Clubs Athol Chalmers said the positive outcome shows “what you can do if you work collaboratively with government.”

He said poker machines have been a contentious issue for years but an outcome was found “that suits their [the government’s] objective and that benefits clubs”.

Mr Chalmers said the incentives provided by the ACT Government were significant, which is reflected in the number of machines surrendered, but also aided clubs’ desires to diversify revenue bases.

As President of the Burns Club, Mr Chalmers said they chose to hand back a number of machines for Lease Variation Charge (LVC) credits to develop land next to the club to create an ongoing revenue stream.

The ACT Government said clubs were provided with the option to voluntarily surrender authorisations in exchange for access to offsets for land-related payments, fees and charges, including deconcessionalisation and LVCs.

Small and medium clubs could instead choose to receive $12,000 cash for every gaming machine authorisation voluntarily surrendered.

The reduction of electronic gaming machine licences in the ACT to 4,000 by 2020 is a Parliamentary Agreement item between Labor and the Greens.

Further trading between clubs may reduce the number of authorisations to be compulsorily surrendered by clubs, as one-in-four are forfeited when clubs trade authorisations.

“If the number of authorisations does not reduce through trading to 4,000 by the end of February, steps will be put in place for the first stage of compulsory surrender to occur on 1 April 2019,” Minister Ramsay said.

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