ClubsACT has called on government to conduct the necessary research and consider the serious social and economic impacts for Canberra before deciding to change Casino legislation. If the legislation is changed to allow poker machines into Canberra Casino, problem gambling and unemployment will increase, and the long-standing agreement between industry and the ACT government will be undermined.

In a meeting yesterday, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, MLA, suggested that having poker machines in a casino will support an objective of reducing the total number of machines in Canberra. But independent research from the Australian National University (ANU), the Productivity Commission and Southern Cross University demonstrates more money is taken by machines in casinos than in community clubs, offsetting the reduction in machines. Additionally, unlike machines in ACT clubs, where revenue is ploughed directly into the local community, casino money will be lost offshore to overseas owners.

ClubsACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees, says the evidence is clear.

“People will play pokies in the Casino for longer, play them harder, and they will travel longer distances to get to the Casino. Reducing machines does not equal reducing harm because the venue type is a critical factor.

“The Casino is a for-profit venture – completely at odds with our unique, community focused, not-for-profit clubs, where ALL revenues are spent to support local jobs, local suppliers, local sporting infrastructure, local charities or local community groups.

“Allowing poker machines in the Casino will result in club closures and will kill our unique community club model, which plays a vital role in the economic and social fabric of Canberra.

“Any moves to introduce poker machines in casinos, is gambling with the jobs of hundreds of employees in local clubs. In addition to supercharging gambling losses, large scale casinos in other cities have seen as many as 50 per cent of clubs in the immediate area closed, with a net loss in jobs for locals across the community.

“Worse still, if the government allows the Casino to purchase poker machines from community clubs it will be breaking a number of promises it has made to the people of the ACT, particularly in relation to Clause 7 of the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding. This clearly states the Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) trading scheme will consider social impacts and not increase the incidence of problem gambling or the concentration of EGM’s in particular locations.

“The Canberra Casino bid is to operate 500 pokies and, if it were to proceed, would make them the single largest operator of machines in a single location in the ACT, and would concentrate them in the heart of the city.

“Allowing poker machines in the Casino is a direct attack on Canberra clubs. It will drastically impact over 2000 employees, over 1100 community organisations receiving support from clubs, hundreds of thousands of club members and their families across the city, local businesses and those within easy reach of Canberra.

“If Canberra Casino is given access to poker machines it will cost the community exponentially. This should not be allowed to proceed without the necessary research to quantify its impact and without seeking a mandate from the people.” Mr Rees concluded.

//Ends 16 December 2015

Lauren Donohoe
OPF Consulting

0434 083 369