Federal Politics

License article

New tax to be raised from venues to fund pre-commitment pokie reforms

ALL poker machine venues in Australia, regardless of size, will pay a new government tax to help fund national pokies reforms, although the price is yet to be set.

The government's watered down pokies reform, finally agreed to by the Greens last week, will require all poker machines to eventually have pre-commitment technology that will allow punters to preset how much they are willing to lose.

Legislation associated with the reforms imposes a ''supervisory levy'' on venues that will be used to fund the scheme - the price of the levy has not been set yet but the government says it will not raise a dollar more than is needed to fund the scheme.

The levy's rate will not be set until after legislation is passed.

Eventually all pokies within a state will have to be linked so players locked out of one venue, once they have exceeded their limit, will be locked out of all pokies.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the levy proposal was discussed with industry and was intended to cover the costs of the scheme.


"It is not a revenue-raising exercise," he told Sky News from Washington on Wednesday.

"It is entirely normal in those circumstances that those costs are covered."

Mr Swan said it was "completely unfair and wrong"  to call it a "pokies tax".

Clubs Australia would rather its members did not have to pay, but the government told clubs in February this was non-negotiable. Executive director Anthony Ball said there were some serious issues with the levy, including the fact it had no expiry date or cap, and that it would be set after legislation was passed.

There is also concern that small clubs will be charged as much as casinos per machine.

Mr Ball said any new tax would be on top of the cost of installing voluntary pre-commitment on every poker machine.

''This power to tax is effectively an admission that a federal bureaucracy is going to be needed to run the voluntary pre-commitment technology,'' Mr Ball said.

"Clubs are being asked to support legislation without knowing what the full cost of that support would be or how it could increase in the future,'' Mr Ball said.

"Members of Parliament are now being asked to vote on legislation to introduce voluntary pre-commitment without knowing if that technology comes with a new tax for every club and hotel.''

Clubs Australia backs voluntary pre-commitment and a trial of the compulsory scheme to be held in the ACT.

Clubs Australia was told in February, during consultation on the bill, that a levy was non-negotiable and a Clubs' submission paper says that if a levy had to be paid it was best done on a machine basis, not revenue. It says the levy referred to in the paper is the Gaming Machine Regulation levy, which some clubs may have to pay, not the supervisory levy.

A spokeswoman for Families Minister Jenny Macklin said it had been made clear to Clubs Australia that there would be a supervisory levy to cover the cost of administering the rules.

''The legislation is also clear that the levy will not start until regulations are made, and we have consulted further with industry,'' she said.

''The supervisory levy can only be used to cover the costs of administering the legislation. It cannot raise $1 more than it costs to administer the new rules. It does not, and cannot raise revenue for the budget.''

Government said the industry requested that details for the supervisory levy be settled in regulations, following further consultation.

with Judith Ireland