Shane Rattenbury, leader of the Australian Greens party, has admitted that the poker machine trading scheme which had been unveiled by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has not worked as initially planned.
The Greens and the Labor Party have joined forces to extend the deadline for local community clubs to shut some of their poker machines by another year.
The piece of legislation that would make an extension to the trading machine scheme had to be brought to an end in August.
However, Gordon Ramsay, the Gambling Minister of the ACT, plans to introduce a new piece of legislation in order to make sure that every 1,000 residents of Canberra have only 15 pokies at their disposal.
Since the beginning of the scheme back in 2015, local clubs and gambling operators have surrendered only 38 poker machines. In comparison, the initial goal set was to reduce the number of pokies by 1,000 by 2020. Clubs would have been required to start surrendering some of their poker machines from August, in order for the cap of 4,000 to be reached.
Since then, a permission to operate a total of 200 pokies plus 60 fully-automated table games has been given to Aquis. In return, the casino owner was required to create a new casino area estimated to $300 million. The operator, however, has recently been given an undefined extension for the proposal to be delivered, which basically means that clubs offering poker machines would have been the main ones to feel the negative consequences of the compulsory acquisition.
No Harm on Community Clubs Intended
As The Canberra Times reported, the Greens’ leader Mr. Rattenbury explained that his party only intended to reduce the number of poker machines, rather than to inflict any harm on community clubs. That was exactly the reason why he shared that the unveiled trading scheme has turned out not as effective as it was supposed to be. He said that the set of tools for control, checks, and balance which is featured by the piece of legislation would actually come at the expense of the clubs, which is not what was meant to be done.
He further shared that the situation needed to be taken into account, in order for the Government to make sure that local community clubs would not suffer massive negative consequences in case that the Government simply decides to shut the remaining 900 poker machines in order to reduce pokies’ overall number to the desired 4,000 machines until the deadline.
Mr. Rattenbury further explained that some community clubs also agreed that there were too many pokies on the territory of Canberra, and demonstrated their willingness to become part of the solution.
The Canberra Liberal Party did not back the legislation to extend the afore-mentioned deadline for local clubs, saying that such a delay would come as another hurdle to the casino redevelopment. ACT Gambling Minister, however, blamed the Liberals for voting against “transparency and integrity” by actually opposing the bill.