The ACT Government has announced a review into the gaming machine community contributions scheme by ACT clubs, as part of a Parliamentary Agreement commitment between Labor and the Greens.
The 9th Parliamentary Agreement states a commitment to review the current scheme to maximise benefits to the community, as well as establishing an independent charitable fund to distribute nominated community funds to charity and community causes, “levied on venues operating electronic gaming machines in the ACT”.
ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said community consultation is an important part of the review, and will inform the Government’s decision-making about what form the scheme should take in the future.
“A range of voices have already come forward suggesting changes that might be made to the scheme … recently I welcomed the Auditor-General’s findings and recommendations,” Minister Ramsay said.
Under the current scheme, the Gaming Machine Act 2004 requires clubs to make a contribution of 8% of net gaming machine revenue in “eligible community contributions”. Community contributions are defined in the Act as “contributing to or supporting the development of the community”, or “raising the standard of living of the community or part of the community”.
The review will consider the transparency of the current scheme, as well as the appropriate distribution of community contributions for gambling harm reduction and other community purposes.
In April, the ACT Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper prepared an audit report on ACT clubs’ community contributions, calling on the ACT Government to specify the objectives sought from community contributions and the types of expenditure that may be claimed as such.
“There are no supporting objectives or guidance on how to interpret the Gaming Machine Act 2004 so that it can be effectively implemented,” Dr Cooper said.
“This means the ACT clubs have considerable flexibility in allocating contributions. Consequently, the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission has approved a broad and diverse range of expenditure as community contributions.”
Shadow Minister for Sports and Recreation James Milligan MLA said the review is an “attack on clubs” that may negatively impact local sporting communities.
“Community clubs give a significant proportion of their profits to local sporting communities,” Mr Milligan said.
“While I understand the [charitable] fund has been established to support charities, I am concerned that diverting community contributions will come at the expense of Canberra’s aspiring athletes and grassroots sporting teams.
“Clubs play an important role in supporting families and kids to get involved in sport and stay active. In many ways, clubs’ community contributions to local sporting groups fills a void created by the government,” Mr Milligan said.
Minister Ramsay is expected to identify changes brought forward as part of the review in the Legislative Assembly later this year. The ACT community will be able to have their say on the future of the scheme through yoursay.act.gov.au