ACT Government Treasurer, Andrew Barr. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Territory-owned gambling agency ACTTAB could be sold after ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr commissioned a review of the corporation's ownership and governance.
ACTTAB's future as a government-owned business has been in doubt for several years as state governments have privatised their TABs and competition has increased.
Mr Barr said a tender process was being undertaken to engage expert advice in reviewing a range of options. ''A feasibility study will be undertaken to identify the full range of future ownership options and the issues associated with each,'' he said.
''The various options range from retaining full government ownership and possible improvements to existing operational/governance arrangements, or the partial or full transfer of ownership to the private sector.'' ACTTAB Limited was established in 1964 to provide a legal off-course betting system in the territory. Its shareholders are the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister.
The corporation has about 108 staff, or 67 full-time equivalent positions. There are 58 ACTTAB retail outlets in the ACT.
ACTTAB became a territory-owned corporation as part of a restructure in 1996. ''The existing business model, which has been in place since 1996, has served the territory well. The market has, however, changed dramatically over this time,'' Mr Barr said.
''ACTTAB is one of two remaining government-owned betting agencies in Australia and, as the smallest TAB with limited market share, operates in a market with intense competition from corporate bookmakers and new forms of gambling products and channels.
''As the government owns the shares on behalf of the territory, we have a responsibility to ensure that the business is well placed to meet the challenges of the future, to minimise the business risk to the territory and maximise the long-term sustainability of the business.'' Mr Barr said the government would only consider full private ownership of ACTTAB if it was in the public interest.
''ACTTAB can only be sold with the approval of the ACT Legislative Assembly,'' he said.
''The review will look closely at the potential impact of each of the options, and provide comprehensive advice on protecting staff interests, including transferring employees and their entitlements.''
The final report of the ACTTAB review was expected to be submitted to the government in May.
In its 2011-12 annual report, ACTTAB reported a $2.1 million after-tax profit. The annual report said the corporation has been experiencing a flat retail environment.
''Saturation television advertising by a number of major corporate bookmaking operations continued to impact on the corporation, stymying growth in fixed-odds account betting,'' the report said.
''The corporation's position was not enhanced by delays in completion of technology upgrades including a mobile phone application and improved website functionality and services.'' An expanded customer loyalty incentive program was expected to generate increased patronage and turnover.
In 1998, a report commissioned by the Liberal government of then chief minister Kate Carnell recommended ACTTAB be sold by March the following year. At the time, it was estimated that the ACTTAB could be sold for between $35 million and $42 million.
Plans for the sale were dropped due to opposition by Labor and cross-bench Assembly members.
In December 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approved an agreement under which Tabcorp would provide fixed-odds wagering and risk management services to ACTTAB.
ACTTAB has an agreement with the South Australian Lotteries Commission to provide Keno in the ACT until 2014.