More pokies bid rejected

Victoria’s Gaming Minister John Pandazopoulos has rejected a gambling industry push for more poker machines in clubs and pubs.
The Government is reviewing the duopoly held by Tattersalls and Tabcorp over the 27,000 pokies machines outside the Crown casino in venues across the state.

Both the gaming giants want the duopoly extended for another two decades after the licences expire in 2012.

In its submission to the government review, Tattersalls recommends more machines in growth areas and the establishment of „super clubs“ with up to 250 machines.

But Mr Pandazopoulos said only the structure of the gaming industry was being reviewed – and whether or not the duopoly remained. The number of pokie machines would not change.

„What we’ve got to work out is: do we have duopoly? Do we have more competitors in the marketplace?“ he said.

„We instructed the licence review team to consider no more (machines) than currently exist.

„What we are doing is ruling out extra gaming machines.

„Some of the companies, there’s no doubt, (are) wanting more gaming machines.“

Mr Pandazopoulos said Victoria already had the lowest number of poker machines (outside casinos) a head in Australia and had focused on capping the concentration of machines in lower socio-economic areas.

The Government is liable to pay out compensation – believed to be more than AUD 1 billion each – to Tattersalls and Tabcorp if their licences are not extended beyond 2012.

But Mr Pandazopoulos said new licence fees could potentially match any revenue losses from the compensation pay-outs.

Meanwhile, Tattersall’s 50-year monopoly in Victoria’s billion-dollar lotteries market is also under challenge with the Government considering opening that area for competition.

A separate government review has short-listed possible licence applicants to run either one or more lotteries after the exclusive licence held by Tattersalls expires in 2007.

The lotteries decision had been expected in the first half of this year, but Mr Pandazopoulos said it was now due „in the next few months“.

„We would prefer competition in the marketplace. We believe lotteries as a product have been very flat in the marketplace.

„There hasn’t been much product innovation. That’s simply because there’s been a monopoly.“

The pokies review is due to announce the post-2012 licence structures and funding arrangements next year.

Government taxes on the gambling industry are the third biggest revenue earner for the Victorian treasury, aside from federal government grants.

This coming year for the first time, pokies machines are due to contribute more than AUD 1 billion to the state’s coffers.