Scratchies could be sold at Canberra petrol stations under a deal that has caught the ACT government flat-footed and left newsagents throughout the capital afraid for their future.
NSW Lotteries on Thursday announced it had entered into franchise agreements for five Woolworths petrol stations in the ACT to sell its full range of lottery products as soon as September 7.
The arrangement would also include 24 Woolworths petrol stations in NSW and 25 outlets in Victoria.
Owner of newsXpress Kippax Fair Garry Prince said newsagents were furious over the deal and a lack of consultation with business owners, who felt extra competition for lottery ticket sales would spell the end for many small newsagencies.
"People shop for convenience, and if the lottery's there when they fill up their fuel they'll just get it there.
"Therefore we lose sales because people don't come in, and they don't buy their newspaper, and if our sales figures drop it will affect our staff. Lotto basically covers my rent."
Australian Newsagents Federation ACT director Alan Macdonald, who owns Macka's Griffith Newsagency, said retailers first learnt of the deal through a statement on NSW Lotteries' retailers webpage on Thursday morning.
He didn't have "a huge problem" with the move but said newsagents invested tens of thousands of dollars in lottery store fitouts, licensing requirements and staff training.
Business owners were concerned petrol station operators wouldn't be made to adhere to the same standards.
"I'm happy for them to be in the business, competition is good but I just want a level playing field.
"The [ACT government's] not supportive but whether they can stop it is another matter."
Gaming Minister Joy Burch understood Tatts Group, which operates NSW Lotteries, had informed the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission of its decision shortly before the announcement.
"This news has come as a surprise to me, so I can fully understand the shock and confusion being felt by many in our small business community."
She has asked the ACT Gambling and Racing Commissioner to urgently investigate the government's options and said the government would look at details of the deal closely to determine its approach.
"As racing and gaming minister, I am concerned about the impact that opening up sales of gambling products like scratchies to 24/7 outlets may have on existing harm minimisation measures.
The NSW government in February struck a deal with Tatts that banned the sale of lottery products in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets for the next five years.
The memorandum of understanding meant newsagents and convenience stores in NSW would have exclusive selling rights to lottery products until 2018.
That deal didn't include service stations owned by the two supermarket giants or other retailers, who would be allowed to sell the products from April this year.
Mr Macdonald said no such agreement was in place in the ACT.
"The ACT government is quite rigid on gambling regulations so our general feeling was that if Tatts wanted to go into petrol stations it would be quite difficult because they're more likely to reduce their gambling footprint than increase it from a harm minimisation point of view."
He said the decision highlighted the importance of regulation and said the newsagents lobby group was pushing for legislation that restricted the sale of lottery products to businesses of 35 or fewer full-time employees.
Mr Macdonald understood newsagents' concerns but said previous trials of lottery products being sold in petrol stations in Victoria and South Australia had indicated regular lottery retailers weren't significantly affected.
"Our ability to serve our customers and know our products puts us so far ahead of a garage."
NSW Lotteries, which is operated by Tatts Group, said the deal applied only to fuel outlets and there were no plans to expand into Woolworths supermarkets.
The company said licensing and regulatory requirements in NSW and the ACT and the petrol outlets would be bound by the same gaming requirements and training as regular retailers.
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