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$100m lost on ACT pokies

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Canberra's pokies losses reached a four-year high of more than $100million in 2010-2011 while the capital's gambling barons were slashing their donations to good causes by more than 11 per cent.

And one club bought itself a new gambling venue with associated commercial property and then tried to write-off the $5.2 million purchase price as a "community contribution".

The annual snapshot by the Gambling and Racing Commission, to be tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly today, reveals that Canberrans gambled away nearly $101million on the pokies in the period, the biggest losses since 2006-2007.

The figures equates to about $344 lost for every adult in the territory, spread across Canberra's 4954 poker machines.

But during the same period, the share of pokies revenue donated to good causes slumped to less than $12 million, reflecting a three- year trend of dwindling contributions the community causes.

But the club's peak body said yesterday that reduced donations reflected an industry facing cost pressures "like never before", and that the community suffered when clubs suffered.

The Eastlake Group, which reaped nearly $6 million from its 345 machines in 2010-2011, was singled out for special mention in the Commission's report after it tried to have its multi-million purchase of the Kaleen Sports Club discounted from its community contribution requirement.

"One licensee claimed $5,251,700.99 in community contributions for the purchase of a club venue and associated leased commercial outlets that were part of that venue," the report says.

"This claim was not eligible under the legislative requirements and was therefore rejected."

Pokies licensees in the ACT are required by law to contribute at least 7 per cent of their winnings to community groups.

However, many of the city's clubs spend much of their mandated contributions on their own sporting operations.

Sport was again the big winner , accounting for just over $7 million of the $11.8 million community contribution pie.

Donations to problem gambling increased to $353,000 from $254,000 in 2009-2010 but remained at less than 5 per cent of the total.

Clubs ACT chief executive Jeff House said yesterday that the figures showed cost pressures building on clubs and uncertainty created by looming national reforms meant that community groups were finding it tough.

"This is the result of increased pressure on clubs' cost bases and community contributions suffer as a result," Mr House said.

"The clubs have had to deal with significant increases in costs with gaming revenue still significantly down on what it used to be when smoking bans first came in.

"For the first time, in the past two or three years, we've seen clubs of significant sizes reporting wafer-thin surpluses and in some cases deficits and that's how reflective of just how tough the marketplace is for clubs."

Mr House said that many clubs simply could not afford to keep up their previous contribution levels.

"So the pressure on clubs to continue to contribute to the community at the previous high levels cannot be sustained permanently and we've seen a decrease," he said.

"Clubs are under the pump and have been for a considerable period of time."

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