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Silvia Pavlof November 22, 2023 3 min read
Victorian Councils Demand Overhaul of Poker Machine Tax Scheme
Mayors from various councils are sounding the alarm, contending that some venues have failed to fulfill promises of contributing a share of gambling profits to charities while simultaneously leveraging sponsorships of local sports teams to draw residents into gambling hubs
A coalition of Victorian councils is urging the state government to overhaul a tax minimization scheme for poker machine venues, asserting that the current system allows venues to exaggerate their community benefits.
Victorian Clubs Divert Tax Break Community Funds for Self-Gain
The councils are particularly concerned about venues pledging additional payments to communities as part of their bids for more poker machines, arguing that these initiatives do not counterbalance the detrimental effects of gambling harm, reported The Guardian.
Their grievances revolve around a tax break scheme that grants Victorian clubs financial benefits if they allocate 8.33% of gambling revenue to community initiatives. However, investigations reveal that a substantial portion of this money is directed toward the clubs’ own operating costs and upgrades, masquerading as a “community benefit.”
Ranka Rasic, the mayor of Brimbank council, expressed frustration and disappointment, emphasizing the acute gambling harm experienced by her constituents. Rasic insists that the state government needs to confront its dependence on gambling venues for income to resolve the persisting issue.
In October, it was revealed that Australians have set a concerning record, with losses from poker machines reaching AUD 14.5 billion ($9.25 billion) in the last financial year, a significant increase from the previous year.
Victoria’s Councils Unite for Poker Machine Reform
Last month, all councils in Victoria collectively urged the government to promptly review the scheme to ensure that losses from gambling are genuinely reinvested into the community. In May, councils advocated for redefining “community benefit” to ensure that gambling profits are shared with legitimate philanthropic organizations or charities, rather than being channeled into the clubs’ self-serving upgrades.
The push for reform is spearheaded by a subset of mayors, primarily concerned about the disproportionate harm inflicted by poker machines on socioeconomically disadvantaged communities where losses are significantly higher.
The Greater Dandenong city council, located on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe, stands out as one of the most culturally diverse and disadvantaged in Australia. With an average loss of $801 per adult to gambling annually, the council is at the forefront of the call for reform. This rate is almost nine times higher than the losses in Boroondara, one of the state’s more privileged areas.
An ongoing parliamentary inquiry has highlighted concerns raised by local governments about applicants failing to deliver on promises to fund community activities.
The councils’ call for reform underscores the need to address the exploitative practices of poker machine-operating clubs, ensuring that tax breaks genuinely benefit the community rather than serving as a cover for self-serving agendas. The state government’s response to these demands remains awaited, with gaming minister Melissa Horne yet to provide comment on the matter.