Xenophon’s gaming policy blasted by AHA SA
Nick Xenophon has today released his SA-BEST party’s gaming policy as part of his campaign for the State Government election to be held on 17 March. The policy calls for a massive reduction in EGMs in venues, among other restrictive features.
In a statement, the SA-BEST party said its reform package would transition hotels and clubs from their dependence on gaming.
“The Gambling Industry in SA and its large poker machine owners have disproportionate economic and political influence, with both Labor and Liberals seemingly falling over each other to keep them happy.
“In their aggressive pursuit of profit they have unleashed an enormous amount of individual, family and community misery. In response governments have failed to provide responsible and effective regulation to protect the community.
“SA-BEST is all about a clear pathway of real, practical reform to transition the SA government and hotels, from their poker machine dependence.”
The two major reforms that Xenophon’s party wants to introduce would restrict gaming in venues considerably. The first would convert all gaming licences to seven year licences from 1 January 2019, which would “put industry on notice not to invest beyond that time”, with licence extensions then to be considered by the end of 2022 – another election year.
The other significant reform would impose a 10 percent reduction in EGMs per annum for venues with more than 10 gaming machines, for five years – reducing their EGMs by half over that period.
Other gaming reforms proposed in the SA-BEST policy include:
- A maximum of $1 bets per spin, with a maximum $500 jackpot.
- Removing EFTPOS machines from gaming rooms within six months.
- Reducing the maximum number of trading hours for gaming rooms from 18 to 16 with only one continuous break.
- Enhancing the power of the Independent Gambling Authority to discipline venues, and introducing heavier penalties for breaches.
AHA SA response
The Australian Hotels Association South Australia (AHA SA) was scathing in its response to the SA-BEST policy, and blunt in the repercussions it would have on the industry as a whole.
“This plan will decimate hotels across South Australia, wiping out many of the 26,000 jobs it directly creates,” stated AHA SA CEO, Ian Horne.
“It would result in many pubs being completely shut. Destroying the concept of the local and ruining the lifestyle so many of us enjoy in this state.”
Horne said the one certainty of the policy would be the loss of jobs within the industry, both direct and indirect in metropolitan and regional areas, and the closure of many country pubs. The CEO also suggested that SA-BEST has made no attempt to model the economic impact of its policy of punitive restrictions proposed for pub and club-based gaming, nor made any attempt to quantify the impact on the more than 26,000 jobs supported by these sectors.
A “cynical” policy
AHA SA described the policy from Xenophon’s party as “cynical”, stating that with the latest studies showing that with 0.6% of the population affected by problem gambling, South Australia was leading the nation in harm prevention and gambler support.
“Let’s actually focus on facts and those who can benefit from support services to address problem gaming,” stated Horne.
“To address the issue of problem gambling by ripping the guts out of an entire industry, giving up thousands of jobs and hurting so many South Australian owned businesses is completely reckless and unwarranted.”
AHA SA also pointed out that the policy targets pubs and clubs, with no action taken on casinos.
“If their policy ever came to fruition, it would deliver a massive windfall for international casinos and the faceless corporations who operate legal and illegal on-line, internet and tablet based gambling.”
The policy also does not explain how SA-BEST would account for the change in taxation revenue due to the reforms, with the current State Government’s forward estimates having budgeted for tax income from EGMs to be $1.126 billion over the next four years.
“Using the State Government’s own formula, combined taxation revenue from gaming machines in SA is the equivalent of employing nearly 3100 teachers or nearly 3000 nurses, 2350 police officers or more than 1400 doctors,” stated Horne.
“Such a deliberate attempt to trash an industry that employs so many and generates such economic benefits is utter madness.”