The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government is looking for deliberate post-COVID 19 pandemic policies to reach its 2024 target for 3500 pokie authorizations in the territory’s clubs. The target was established in accordance with the Labor-Greens governing and parliamentary agreement. The agreement also touches on other sensitive matters like housing and climate.
ACT’s Government Has Two Years to Slash 363 Pokie Authorizations
ACT’s gaming minister Shane Rattenbury expressed the territory’s plans to cut the number of pokies by 363, from 3683, which is the current number of poker machine authorizations in Canberra, to 3500 in the upcoming two years. While only 3611 poker machines are currently operating in clubs in Canberra, 3863 machines have received authorizations to function legally.
Rattenbury stated government officials would need to acknowledge and consider the impact that the numerous COVID-19 lockdowns have had on the industry while working on developing the most suitable policies that would lower the number of problem gamblers. Clubs’ revenues have been severely affected by the harsh restrictions during the pandemic, and the government will need to factor these problems into the equation when creating the new transition policies. The minister also expressed his openness to explore further solutions that would completely eliminate poker machines from certain territory clubs.
Six Clubs Received Close to $1 Million From the Diversification Funding
Rattenbury made the statements in the context of an upcoming round of funding that would support the government’s Diversification and Sustainability Support Fund initiated in 2019. The fund’s main goal is to assist clubs in Canberra with shifting their reliance on revenue streams from gambling to revenue streams that are safer and more sustainable in the long run. The fund receives its financial support from a monthly $20 contribution for the first 99 poker machine licenses that a club hold. The contribution reaches $30 a month for each poker machine that goes over the limit of 99 machines.
A club can access one of two available funding tiers: a $25,000 tier available nonstop, and a $250,000 tier available in grants. Community clubs can apply for the second tier at least once a year. Six clubs already received close to $1 million in funding as part of the second tier. The clubs that benefited from the second funding tier’s grants opened for application last July are the Harmonie German Club, Spanish Australian Club, Canberra Highland, Burns Club, Belconnen Soccer Club, Belconnen Magpies Sports Club, and Gungahlin Lakes Golf and Community Club.
The six clubs will use the funding to install solar energy panels, A/C, build childcare centers, or renovate old amenities. Kippax’s Belconnen Magpies Club closed its gaming site in 2017 after nearly five decades of activity and converted the premises into a site that could host a medical center with the help of funding from the second tier. The club’s general manager Paul Netting added that the extra money left from the grant was invested in the installation of A/C and a lift for wheelchair access at the Ochre Medical Centre in Kippax.
The Spanish Australian Club plans to use the grant money to renovate and upgrade its kitchens to provide food for future events hosted by the club, thus further increasing its revenues. Provided the club would be able to generate better revenue streams for the club’s survival from sources other than poker machines, the club would consider the alternative of completely removing all poker machines from the premises.