BY assistant Prof Bruce Baer Arnold
THE Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee for Public Accounts has released its report on the Future of the ACT’s clubs sector.
Clubs ACT have expressed their pleasure at the document.
“The tri-partisan Public Accounts Committee report into the future of clubs is very welcome and represents a clear pathway for reform,” said the Chief Executive of ClubsACT, Jeff House.
“The vast majority of recommendations contained in the report are supported by Labor, Liberal and the Greens and provides the ACT Government and the Assembly as a whole with a blueprint for reform.
“Importantly, there is consensus amongst all parties in the Assembly on a range of key issues including that the club sector should be supported in its efforts to diversify. This should be the foundation for a constructive discussion between industry and government about tangible and genuine reform.
“The Chief Minister has previously stated that reform in this area will only occur with bipartisan, if not unanimous, support. In a wide range of areas, I believe the Committee has met the Chief Minister’s threshold for sensible and reasonable reform.
“ClubsACT and its members made a very constructive and thorough contribution to this inquiry with a detailed submission including 28 recommendations. Many of those recommendations have been acted upon by the committee.
“Industry is also urging the government to respond to the report and its recommendations rapidly so the work of implementing reform can commence as quickly as possible.
“Certainly we would be expecting to see legislative outcomes from this inquiry implemented before the next ACT election. As always, we stand ready to work with the Assembly and other stakeholders to achieve agreed reforms.
“This inquiry has been a welcome and positive process and I’d like to publicly thank the Chair, Mr Smyth and indeed all the members of the committee for their work. I hope and trust their work will lead to real, meaningful and lasting reform which will benefit the ACT club sector and the Canberra community as a whole”.
Shane Rattenbury has objected in some areas.
“Community clubs provide significant value to our community and are an important place for many Canberrans to socialise and remain connected with their community,” Shane said.
“However, the harms caused by poker machines are well documented and we need to support our community clubs in finding alternate business models that are less reliant on gambling revenue.
“I have supported a number of the recommendations of the Committee, including the establishment of a taskforce to tackle problem gambling and the introduction of a risk-based licensing scheme that provides incentives and recognition for clubs who go further to address problem gambling.
“I was also pleased that committee unanimously agreed that there should be no net loss of community zoned land. In cases where community land is rezoned, equivalent community land should be designated elsewhere as an offset.
“However I do not support some of the findings in relation to cash limits and I would like to see a further increase to the Problem Gambling Assistance Fund Levy, to fund improved research into problem gambling and frontline harm minimisation services.
“The Committee recommended the removal of the $250 withdrawal limit on ATMs. This recommendation is inconsistent with accepted problem gambling harm minimisation measures and should be rejected by the Government.
“In fact, we need to go further and move immediately to close the loophole that allows clubs to circumvent the $250 ATM limit by providing patrons access to money through EFTPOS Machines.
“The Government should also take action now to lower the maximum bet on poker machines to $1, rather than wait on national gambling reform. This type of measure would not impact the majority of gamblers, but impose limitations on those who have a problem and need our assistance.
“The Committee agreed that entertainment precincts should be established around areas with multiple clubs to ensure that they are able to host events and live music. To do this, I think the Government should introduce zoning to the Territory Plan to establish these Entertainment Precincts across Canberra, particularly around areas with clusters of multiple clubs.
“This would ensure that clubs are able to host events such as those with live music, as well as ensure that residents understand where they can expect to have slightly higher noise levels.
“Overall the committee, which included members from all parties within the Assembly, has come out with a number of positive recommendations that I believe will go some way to support the clubs sector and provide solutions to ensure their long term viability,” said Mr Rattenbury.
UPDATE: Joy Burch has also expressed her pleasure:
Minister for Racing and Gaming Joy Burch today welcomed the report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its Inquiry into elements impacting on the future of the ACT clubs sector.
The Committee tabled its report, with 45 recommendations, in the Legislative Assembly today.
“I thank the committee members for their hard work over the past seven months and I am particularly pleased that they have come to a tripartite agreement on the majority of the recommendations,” Ms Burch said.
“The findings and recommendations are wide-ranging and require serious consideration as the Government works with the clubs sector to ensure the financial viability of these important community assets.
“Our not-for-profit community clubs provide valuable services to our community, from sporting fields to affordable meals and a safe and welcoming place to meet.
“Last year alone, our community clubs contributed more than $12.7 million to community groups and organisations.
“However, we know that clubs face challenges, with increasing competition from other venues and declining revenues.
“The ACT Government is committed to helping clubs diversify their business models away from reliance on gaming machine revenue, and I note the Committee’s report acknowledges the work being done in this area by the Government’s Community Clubs Task Force.
“I also welcome the Committee’s recommendation to establish a cash input limit of $250 for electronic gaming machines and, once the limit is implemented, remove note denomination limits.
“My view has always been that it isn’t the colour of the notes, but rather the amount of cash you can put into a machine, that matters.
“The Government will now examine the report and its recommendations closely, and will provide a Government response to the Assembly next month.”