As of next week, the government in the Australian Capital Territory will consult on the changes of a controversial scheme which entrusts some of its poker machine profits into community causes.
Clubs in the territory are legally required to contribute 8% of the profit they make on poker machines to community groups. However, the scheme has been criticised and said to be “deeply flawed”. According to a 2017 report by top-tier gambling researcher Dr Charles Livingstone.
Research Findings: ACT’s Flawed Pokie Profit Scheme
According to the research, the community contributions scheme made payments in a “deeply flawed, opaque and misleading” manner.
In 2014 to 2015, about 70% of all contributions went to sport. Almost AU$1 million of it was used to pay administration and grounds staff. Coaches received AU$153 700 in payments, AU$244 300 went to players and AU$17 400 went to umpires. Another whopping AU$830 000 was paid to elite sports players. Meanwhile, a substantial AU$36 000 went to massage and physiotherapy. Medical supplies amounted to AU$14 400 and a total of AU$3910 for drug testing.
Some of the clubs also claimed AU$415 000 for sport facility maintenance including; broken windows, ovals, AU$145 000 for electricity and a whopping $268 000 for water and sewerage. The total claimed for these kind of contributions made up to almost AU$800 000. Meanwhile, sports affiliations were paid AU$55 500 and $1500 went to game forfeits and melees fines.
Other clubs also claimed for other costly things including Labor’s Weston Creek Club’s AU$52 000 claim for problem gambling as “payment for staff training and/or counselling”. The Tradies Club for example, claimed AU$225 000 for drug and alcohol training. Meanwhile the Hellenic Club claimed AU$28 600 as an in-kind contribution for a Christmas party at their premises on discount.
The Government’s Response
The ACT government said it would consult next week with Canberra’s clubs and the community.
“Over the next month we want to hear the community and industry’s views about what is good about the scheme, and how it could be improved or changed,” said ACT Gaming Minister Gordon Ramsay.
“The review will consider the experience of other jurisdictions with similar schemes. The intent is to maximise the direct benefit to the community from the scheme,” Mr Ramsay added.
Canberra clubs operate 4723 poker machines in total. In the 2016/17 financial year, the machines made up to AU$168 million, of which AU$11.9 million was given to community causes.