Pokies clubs to attack Napthine

Victoria's poker machine lobby will target 35 key seats at the November state election, in retaliation for the Napthine Government's tax hike on poker machine revenue imposed earlier this year.

Poker machines venues will campaign against the Napthine government in crucial suburban and regional seats, arguing that the recent tax hike will cost jobs and create a shortfall in funding to charities and community sports clubs

The strategy, to be launched on Wednesday, will mirror a campaign spearheaded by Clubs Australia against the Gillard government's pokies reforms in 2011.

That federal campaign, led by NSW-based poker machine lobby groups that have long held politial sway, targeted marginal seats and was ultimately successful in watering down reforms.

Treasurer Michael O'Brien in December announced that the state government would increase the tax rate applied to pokies venues.

He said the changes would correct the pokies tax system that had set rates for gaming venues too low to recover Victoria’s historical share of tax revenue, a mistake made during Labor's reform of the industry in 2008.

The changes are forecast to reap the government an extra $280 million by the end of 2016-17.

In retaliation, the “Our Pain, Napthine Gain” campaign claims the tax increase will rip $20 million from community clubs this year and $75 million over the next four years.

Community Clubs Victoria -- a week old amalgamation of Clubs Victoria and Community Clubs Association of Victoria -- continues to oppose "the blatant tax grab" warning it will cost jobs and funding for community groups including sporting clubs.

It says it will result in local charities and sporting clubs losing crucial funds. It says clubs pour $300 million into community groups every year and employ 15,000 people in Victoria.

The local campaign includes a website, posters and stickers in 35 electorates similar to the 2011 anti-Labor model.

Labor opposed the increase and the new rate only passed parliament after independent Geoff Shaw secured some concessions, including a six month extension of poker machine entitlement repayments.

Victoria has around 27,000 pokies, outside of Crown Casino, between July 1 last year and the end of May 2014 Victorians have lost $2.3 billion on the machines.

Community Clubs Victoria Executive President Leon Wiegard said the campaign was in response to a demand for action from its members who were deeply unhappy with the tax and the government's response to their concerns.

He said it would be the most vocal Victorian clubs had been on a political issue - the anti-Gillard campaign was strongest in NSW and Queensland.

The anti-Napthine campaign includes 22 seats with a margin under 5 per cent, as well as the Premier and Mr O'Brien's safe seats.

Mr Wiegard said the tax grab was nothing more than a fundraising measure for the Premier during an election year.

“Community clubs support hundreds of charities, sports team and community groups across the state, as well as mobilising an army of community volunteers.” he said.

“The contribution community clubs make to these vital community groups is now at risk thanks to Denis Napthine and his Government’s reckless tax grab.

Mr Wiegard said the tax would force community clubs to reassess how much financial support they would be able to give to local charities and sporting groups.

“The Government has been very short sighted with their attack on community clubs. They have failed to see the long term effects this tax will have on not only community clubs but on local communities as well.

“The most frustrating thing is that rather than just accept that gaming revenue has fallen over the last few years, the Government would rather impose a massive tax burden on a not-for-profit industry and destroy the great work they do for their local communities.

Affected clubs included the Knox Club in Wantirna South which supports around a dozen local sports clubs including the Knox Basketball League and surrounding football clubs, including the Eastern Rangers who play in the AFL’s under-18 feeder competition.

Manager Basim Aljabary warned any drop in revenue may impact on the donations to sporting clubs.

On Tuesday the state government announced it would be appeal last month’s decision by the Supreme Court that it must pay Tatts $461 million, plus interest, in compensation for the loss of the gaming giants pokies licence in 2012.

"The Supreme Court awarded Tatts Group around $541 million in damages and interest following the former Labor government's restructure of Victoria's gaming industry,’’ Mr O’Brien said.

The news comes as the government announced it is appealing last month’s Supreme Court decision that the state must pay Tatts $540 million compensation for the loss of its poker machine license in 2012.

This story Pokies clubs to attack Napthine first appeared on The Age.