An independent research report comparing the ACT’s gambling regulation to the rest of Australia has found the Territory has some of the most relaxed gambling industry regulations in the country.
Released earlier this month, it found Canberra has the second highest concentration of poker machines in Australia and has the most generous limit on maximum bet per spin at $10.
Unlike all other Australian jurisdictions, the report said the ACT has no regulatory standard for load up limit, maximum win and time display in venues.
The report, A blueprint for effective EGM reform in Canberra, was commissioned by the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance, and funded by Anglicare NSW South and ACT, ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and Belconnen Community Services.
ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar said the ACT’s taxation rates on poker machines are amongst the lowest in the country at 20%.
“Increasing the rate to the Australian average of 29.9% would see an increase in tax revenue of over $17 million,” she said.
Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing Mark Parton questioned the report’s credibility.
“The ACT has the lowest gambling expenditure as a percentage of household income in the entire nation as well as the lowest rate of problem gambling in the country.”
Mr Parton said data obtained by Clubs ACT shows a downturn in gaming revenue in the ACT of $20 million over 14 years.
“That downturn has come in very clear troughs related to changes in regulation in the ACT and it is mirrored almost exactly by a corresponding rise in gaming revenue just across the border in Queanbeyan.”
He said further taxation and regulatory changes will lead to a further shift of gaming revenue and club closures in the ACT.
A spokesperson for Minister for Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay told Canberra Weekly the ACT has strong legislation for electronic gaming machines with plans to toughen it further.
“We already strengthened restrictions on cash withdrawals at clubs, boosted contributions to the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund, and provided tax and grant incentives to help clubs diversify their businesses,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to deliver on our commitments by reforming our gambling code of practice, developing better training for all people working at clubs including management, and developing a better model for self-exclusion across clubs.”
“Canberra’s clubs are a valuable part of Canberra’s social fabric and the reduction needs to proceed in a sustainable way,” the spokesperson said.
They said the Government will reduce the overall number of electronic gambling machines in the ACT to 4,000 by 1 May 2020, continuing a long-term trend.
“We are reducing the number of gaming machines in the Territory. From 5,179 in 2006-07 we are now at 4,377 machines in operation.”