The Labor Party owned Canberra Labor Clubs are among the smallest contributors to community groups as a proportion of their poker machine profits, contributing not much more than the legal minimum, a report from the Gambling and Racing Commission reveals.
The Labor Clubs also appear to run the busiest poker machines in the city, making a net profit on each machine of about $29,000 in the last financial year, well above most big clubs, which made about $21,000 a machine, and smaller clubs whose machines are not running anything like the profits.
Overall, poker machine profits in 2013-14 were $3.7 million down on the previous year. The city's 49 clubs made a profit of almost $96 million on the machines after tax and running costs - equivalent to $350 for every Canberra aged 18 or over.
Clubs are required to give at least 8 per cent of poker machine profits to community groups.
Every club exceeded the minimum, giving an average of 13 per cent of their profits, but smaller clubs donated a much higher proportion.
The Canberra Labor Club contributed just 9 per cent, the lowest of any club, other than the Mawson Club, which gave 8.6 per cent.
The Labor Club group gave $2.5 million to the Labor Party in the same year.
The bulk of the city's 4906 poker machines is concentrated in the hands of a handful of big club groups - the top three are the Tuggeranong Rugby Union group, which has 704 machines; the Southern Cross Club, with 680 machines; and the Canberra Labor Club, 488. Each of those groups runs four clubs.
But while the Labor Club has considerably fewer machines than the other two, its profits are almost the same. The Labor Club made a profit of $14 million off its machines, an average of $28,600 each. At its main venue, in Belconnen, it turned a profit of $31,300 for each of the 282 machines, apparently outstripping every other venue in the city.
The Tuggeranong Rugby Union Club , the biggest owner of poker machines, netted $14.2 million, only marginally more than the Labor clubs despite having 216 more machines. It averaged $20,100 a machine, $8500 less than the Labor clubs. The Southern Cross group made $14.4 million, or $20,200 a machine.
The Canberra Labor Club didn't respond to queries, but Clubs ACT chief executive Jeff House suggested the big profits on pokies were due to the club's location in the middle of the Belconnen business precinct, with three federal government departments close by and plenty of daytime traffic.
The Southern Cross Club and the Canberra Raiders Group were also small contributors to community groups, giving 10 and 11 per cent of poker machine profits respectively. The average across the board was 13 per cent, but some clubs spent their entire poker machine profits and more in community contributions.
Sport is universally the winner, with about 70 per cent of club contributions going to sport. Clubs cut their donation
Mr House said the lower spend on charity and welfare reflected the tough times. Given many clubs had obligations to fund sporting groups, or the Labor Party in the case of the Labor Club, they had to look to their discretionary spending to save money.
"It's simply a reflection of the fact that, overall, clubs are doing it pretty tough at the moment," he said.
He was seeking tax breaks to help protect welfare donations, he said.
He also pointed out that the contributions made by many clubs to sport counted as a community contribution, whereas the Labor Club group's community contributions came on top of money to the Labor Party.
The 20 smallest clubs (in poker machine profits) donated 48 per cent of profits to community groups. The 20 biggest clubs donated 13 per cent. Taken in straight dollar terms, the 20 biggest clubs made a far bigger contribution, donating $10.3 million between them. The 20 smallest donated $900,000.