Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Liberals' pokie policy

It’s easy to summarise the Libs’ pokie policy. They have simply adopted THA and Federal Group’s position. Without amendment.

When Rebecca White moved the goalposts the Libs were left flatfooted with a urgent need to find a plausible alternative.

Yet despite the mountain of evidence presented to the parliamentary inquiry plus its 72 findings and 23 recommendations, despite its own post 2023 framework  that specified allocation of venue licenses by a market based mechanism, the Libs opted instead to adopt the THA/ Federal proposal in its entirety, a proposal lodged so late in the life of the parliamentary committee it didn’t have enough time to consider it in detail.

Pubs and clubs with existing pokies will be gifted a 20 year license to continue after 2023 with a significantly higher share of the pool. This effectively means the 96 existing pubs have just been given a windfall capital gain of $150 million. That’s how much the value of the pubs will increase with implementation of the Libs policy. One quarter of this or $37.5 million will accrue to the Federal Group as owners of twelve of the better performing pubs. The better performing the pubs the higher the capital gain. About $75 million will fall into the laps of five other groups who own multiple pokie venues. The rest will be distributed amongst single venue operators.

There won’t be any market based mechanism to allocate licenses to venues. They will simply be gifted to those who currently have pokies.

But granting a licence for 20 years means that if any government makes any changes in the next 20 years which adversely affect license holders then governments will have to pay compensation. They will have to pay compensation to licence holders who paid nothing for the licences in the first place. That is reckless public policy.

THA and the Federal Group argued a tender to allocate licences for venues would be too traumatic and cause too much uncertainty. Why not just give the licenses to existing operators. Much easier. The Libs agreed.

The Libs have effectively said 50% of player losses will go to venues, 9% to GST, 39% to the State government and 2% to the network operator. Now 2% of player losses is $2 million. Do the Libs honestly think that there will be a skerrick of interest from potential network operators interested in submitting a tender for a measly $2 million.  What is being suggested will mean that the network operations will fall into Network Gaming’s lap, as agreed by THA and Federal in their joint proposal cobbled together by Paul Lennon in August 2017.

The split up of the pool may change but it will be the same guys splitting the booty. In essence pubs will get a windfall gain plus a bigger slice of the pie particularly advantaging Federal Group with its twelve pubs in the Vantage Group. The government will also get more of the pie. The loser will be Federal Group’s Network Gaming. 

But this is exactly what THA and Federal Group proposed.

To offset most of the Network Gaming losses it was further proposed to slash taxes on casino pokies. The Libs haven’t said what they’ll do other than taxes on casino pokies will be subject to negotiation and will be competitive. Given that pokie player don’t travel interstate to play pokies it’s difficult to know what competitive means. It looks awfully like taxes will be set as low as possible under the guise of being competitive in the hope the Federal Group can claw back some of the loot surrendered by Network Gaming  that has flowed like a tsunami from pubs and clubs over the last 20 years.

Overall the Government won’t be better off. Nor will players. The loot will be shuffled around by the same familiar faces, many of whom, Federal Group being mentioned as one possibility, will give serious consideration to cashing their newly minted capital gains, having conned another government for a further 20 years using the bogus claim of more jobs and protection of our newly discovered freedom of choice.

The Libs have simply rebadged the THA/Federal Group proposal and passed it off as their policy. It won’t be the end of a monopoly but the continuation of a cosy oligopoly between Federal and THA which disadvantages THA members without pokies, the rest of the tourism industry and the wider community.

( for a full analysis of the THA/Federal Group proposal see HERE)

1 comment:

  1. God help us all. The Liberals are not even pretending to develop policy; just adopting Federal's ideas wholesale. This will just continue the slow-motion gambling train wreck we have seen in Tasmania for decades.