Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Barry’s Budget: A Lesson Learned From Clubs NSW

I’m starting to wonder how long it will be before Barry O’Farrell bites the bullet, declares his government a not-for-profit enterprise and applies for membership with Clubs NSW.

Let’s face it, they’ve been looking after the clubs industry since the day they won office. There was the Memorandum of Understanding they signed with Peter Newell and Anthony Ball from Clubs NSW before the 2010 election, which promised not only to look after clubs, but also to protect their gambling interests.

There was the 2011 “horror” NSW budget which saw slashing cuts everywhere except the registered clubs industry, which instead was patted on the head and sent on its way with generous tax breaks.

There was the recent reworking of poker machine entitlement transfer rules, designed solely to allow clubs with multiple venues to shift their pokies from less profitable sites to more profitable sites without giving up entitlements.

And now we have the 2012 budget. No specific largesse for the clubs this time around (awww) but now more than ever the O’Farrell government is behaving like a supposedly non-profit poker machine behemoth. Panthers, maybe, or the Rooty Hill RSL.

Why do I say this? Well, consider the opening statement of this media release yesterday from Honest George Souris, the NSW Coalition Minister for Gambling and other stuff:

“The NSW Government has committed $15 million in the Budget to combat problem gambling through high quality counselling services, research and education and awareness activities across the State.”

Now, put aside for the moment that counselling, research and education (at the expense of more targeted measures like, ooh I don’t know, actually making changes to poker machines or venues) is the stated policy of Clubs NSW.

Put aside the fact that problem gambling services in NSW are paid for not by the government, but by the Responsible Gambling Fund, which (as their annual report states) is funded by a 2% levy on gambling revenue from Star Casino. Not clubs or hotels; just the casino.

And put aside the fact that there is no indication if this is $15 million over the next twelve months, or five years, or whatever. I’m prepared to be generous and assume it’s $15 million a year.

The problem is that for the 2012/13 financial year, the NSW budget’s modelling shows that the government expects to rake in $1.2 billion in poker machine taxes from clubs and pubs alone.

(click on the image for a better look)

Yet they’re handing back $15 million. That’s something like 1.25%. And they’re talking it up like it’s a good thing.

Now THAT’S how you act like a club!

All Barry has to do now is install a fake waterfall, some plastic palm trees and an all-you-can-eat buffet at Macquarie St and the transformation will be complete. At least then they’ll have an excuse to lose money.

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