Local operators’ muted support for action over poker machine tax hike

City Memorial Bowls Club manager Rick Scott

City Memorial Bowls Club manager Rick Scott

GAMING machine operators in Warrnambool appear hesitant to join a statewide campaign against a tax hike introduced by the Napthine government. 

Clubs with poker machines have vowed to campaign against a tax hike that came into effect in May.

Community Clubs Victoria — a new group representing bowling and football clubs with gaming licences — says it will target all 35 electoral seats in a campaign named “Our Pain, Napthine Gain”. 

But support for the campaign in the Premier’s South West Coast seat appears sluggish. 

Warrnambool’s City Memorial Bowls Club manager Rick Scott told The Standard the club would be worse off by $70,000. 

But despite the tax taking a chunk out of the club’s revenue, Mr Scott said he saw little point in joining the pre-election battle. 

“I’m not sure, they’re not going change it — that’s the reality. It’s gone through as an act of Parliament,” Mr Scott said.

“The extra tax has cost us $70,000 and it won’t decrease. Taxes never decrease.

“I can’t see it changing.”

Mr Scott declined to name the overall profit turned over by the club’s 38 machines. 

However, he did say the club had given $450,000 to community groups in the last year. 

He said other clubs that leased machines from gaming corporations would suffer because they earned back less income. 

“There will be some clubs that struggle,” Mr Scott warned. 

A spokesman for Warrnambool Bowls Club said the organisation would take part in any campaign. Asked if the club would display posters against the tax he replied “no”. 

The Napthine government brought in the tax to make up for the Labor government’s pokie machine auction scheme that failed to generate $3 billion in revenue. 

The latest tax is expected to gather up to $20 million this year, according to Community Clubs Victoria. “As a result of the government’s new tax, community clubs will now be expected to find an additional $75 million over the next four years. 

“To find the extra money, community clubs will have no choice but to reassess how much financial support they will be able to give to local charities and sporting groups,” Community Clubs Victoria executive president Leon Wiegard said. 

But those comments were quickly condemned by the government and doctors. 

Australian Medical Assoc-iation Victorian president Dr Tony Bartone said: “They can argue as much as they want that money from the clubs goes back to the community — but this is degenerative when you consider the overall cost to the community and the devastation that gambling can cause”.

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