Victoria authorities to take higher tax cuts from poker machine revenue

  • Officials say revenue will be used for community services
  • Anti-gambling groups say ‘money grab’ won’t help gamblers

Australian gambling operators in the Victoria district will be subject to stricter taxes on high-revenue pokie machines as part of reforms by the State Government, reports the Herald Sun.

'Excessive' usage of slot machines, known locally as pokies, in Australia, has drawn the attention of the authorities.
‘Excessive’ usage of slot machines, known locally as pokies, in Australia, has drawn the attention of the authorities.

The income for authorities is thought to total millions of dollars, which the Andrews Government plans to put into community and health services.

The move is part of a series of changes aimed at tackling problem gambling in the state, although anti-gambling lobbyists have expressed concerns that the tax changes will not help gambling addicts.

Sweeping tax changes will hit gambling providers

The new taxes were revealed this week by Marlene Kairouz, Victoria’s Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister. The plans include additional taxes for pokies at gaming clubs and entertainment venues, and an increased rate for all machines earning AU $6,667 (US $5,253) to $12,500 ($9,850).

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Insider sources say this will create an additional income of millions of dollars for the government, the Herald Sun reports.

This additional income will boost the $1.12 billion predicted in gambling tax revenue during the 2017/18 fiscal period. Gambling spend totals $1,240 per adult in Australia, according to a recent survey, and pokies are proving as popular as ever.

This would be good news for the nation’s gambling operators – but higher taxes means it is the government who are likely to see the benefits.

Anti-gambling lobby wary of tax changes

This is not the first action taken by the government in regard to poker machines this year. In June, lawmakers set a cap on the number of machines allowed nationally, and stated that this cap will remain until 2042.

This is partly to reduce rates of problem gambling, but also to ensure fair competition within the casino market.

The cap was welcomed by anti-gambling groups and by gambler safety groups.

However, those same groups are more cynical of this tax announcement. The Government has promised that funds will be distributed back into community projects, including support services for problem gamblers.

“There is a case for higher tax rates but what we are not seeing is action to reduce gambling harm and reduce losses,” said an Alliance for Gambling Reform representative.

It remains to be seen whether the government will use its new income to ease problem gambling, or whether it will become reliant on the income stream from gambling losses.

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