Over the past 15 years in the ACT, gaming revenues have declined by almost 60 per cent, more than 15 clubs have closed, five in this parliamentary term, and under the ACT Greens more clubs will close and more jobs will be lost, says ClubsACT chief executive Gwyn Rees.
“This plan, particularly on the back of the hardships caused by COVID, will drive many clubs to bankruptcy and certainly impact on their ability to provide free, subsidised and financial support to local sporting and community organisations,” Mr Rees says, referring to the Greens’ pokie-free package, which will incentivise clubs to get rid of poker machines.
“It will cost many hundreds of jobs, particularly for young people who make up our club sector. It will cost even more jobs along our supply chain.”
The ACT Greens, according to Mr Rees, are intent on wiping out community clubs and the people they employ, picking arbitrary caps on the number of gaming machines in the territory and all the while touting their ostensible support for the sector.
“In the plan released today, the Greens are breaking their previous policy commitment to reduce the number of poker machine licences in Canberra to 3500 – now going further to 3000, yet have offered no reason for the policy change,” he says.
“Clubs have worked hard to diversify their businesses and reach the goal set of less than 15 machines per 1000 people.”
Mr Rees says ACT clubs thought they had done the heavy lifting expected of them this political term, but it seems every time they reach the top of the mountain the Greens roll the boulder back down.
“Shifting the goalposts is hugely damaging as it denies clubs any certainty in operation. They cannot budget or plan as they never know when or how they will be ordered to change their business model,” he says.
In the announcement, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said clubs have become reliant on the rivers of gold from pokies and gambling addiction to keep themselves afloat. He also said they have made this announcement after consultation with clubs.
Mr Rees says that neither is true.
“If Minister Rattenbury truly believes there is a river of gold, I would suggest it will be flowing through Queanbeyan,” he says.
“Perhaps the most concerning aspect is the suggestion the Greens have devised this plan in consultation with the community clubs sector. As truth in political advertising becomes a key focus for voters, I am surprised the Greens are saying they have consulted because they haven’t.
“In 2016, the Greens also announced policy that was meritorious including relief from our very high-water charges and liquor licence fees. Those policies were never delivered.”