NCOSS: ”Pokies Grant Scheme Should Be Axed”

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According to the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS), the government of New South Wales should stop a grants scheme, which is funded by the profits of poker machines. The NSW’s utmost authority for welfare services withdrew its support to ClubGrants, one of Australia’s largest grant programs.

No Cooperation with ClubGrants

NCOSS wants to put an end to its 24-year collaboration with ClubGrants because a review identified that the grants scheme, which provided more than $1 billion, was defective, full of opportunities for conflict of interest, and failed to apply the respective rules.

Recently, poker machine reform has been a divisive political issue and the Premier of New South Wales Dominic Perrottet faces strong resistance from the pubs, clubs, and Nationals as well in relation to his support for mandatory cashless gaming cards aiming to address problem gambling and money laundering issues.

$3.8 billion in Profits from Poker Machines

The initial idea of the ClubGrants scheme was to allocate tax breaks on clubs’ poker machine profits from big clubs to organizations that are engaged in helping the poor and disadvantaged. In the first half of 2022, profits from poker machines, which are, in fact, losses of gamblers broke records and reached $3.8 billion. Per NCOSS, clubs obtain extremely high public relations benefit from “giving back” to community groups through grants.

ClubsNSW, which started operating in 1998, is responsible for facilitating two of the three categories of grants, which totaled $103 million in 2022. Since 1998, clubs have provided over $1 billion in grants.

NCOSS has collaborated with ClubGrants since its very beginning back in 1998. The initial participation of the peak body of welfare services in supporting ClubGrants and developing its guidelines was of enormous importance for the establishment of the scheme.

NCOSS’ Review Highly Criticized the Grants Scheme

Joanna Quilty, chief executive officer of NCOSS, commented that last year NCOSS issued a review, which was funded by the government, and according to it, “clubs can directly fund projects that either directly or indirectly benefit themselves, while getting an enormous public relations benefit out of being able to claim to be ‘giving back’ to the community.”

She stated that the said review identified many examples, where money was not transferred to projects dedicated to individuals who are disadvantaged or with low incomes.

Following the NCOSS’ review, the government consented to amend the guidelines for ClubGrants in consultation with ClubsNSW and NCOSS.

A spokesman of ClubGrants commented that the grants scheme was successfully operating for over 20 years and had allocated to community groups more than $1.5 billion. He further added that the established guidelines have been applied properly. If a club fails to meet the guidelines, it loses its rebate and must pay tax to the NSW government.

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