Brisbane airport wants pokies

Brisbane Airport is seeking the power to install pokies, TAB and keno facilities at airport terminals.

It wants to overturn a 10-year ban on gambling at Australian airports, arguing passengers should be able to enjoy a bet while waiting for flights.

Brisbane Airport Corporation has told a Senate inquiry the ban unfairly penalises airport businesses and patrons.

The bid for airport gambling comes as another submission to the Senate inquiry blames ill-conceived planning by Brisbane Airport for major traffic problems around Airport Drive.

The Brisbane City Council has attacked the airport for building a discount factory outlet against local planning advice.

Any expansion of the airport’s operations into gaming – along with planned hotel developments — is likely to place more pressure on transport infrastructure in the area, and further inflame relations with the council.

Of the gaming ban, the BAC said in its submission that: „This prohibition is an artefact of extreme conservatism at the time of privatisation.“

The Airports Act 1996 prohibits all forms of gambling at Australian airports, including newsagents selling lotto and scratchies.

The BAC, which last year posted a USD 62.58 million profit, recommends the Department of Transport and Regional Services immediately repeal the prohibition to allow airports to undertake lottery and casket-type gambling.

„We also suggest that the department consider allowing gambling that might not necessarily be classified as ’soft‘ but is not of the harder variety such as casinos.

„In Queensland, the types of gambling that fall within this category are on-line keno and pub-TAB and perhaps poker-slot machines.

„Finally, although BAC has no current plans for the introduction of casino activities … it is not necessarily incompatible with an airport.“

Small airport-style casinos already operate in Europe.

One of those, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, was part of a private consortium which bought Brisbane Airport in 1997. There are two casinos at Schiphol Airport operating a total of 100 poker machines and five roulette and blackjack tables.

Senate inquiry chairman Bill Heffernan said he had reservations about lifting the ban but would listen to all arguments put forward. „I suspect this is about getting the foot in the door to harder forms of gambling,“ he said.

The push to extend gambling to Australian airports has also angered anti-pokie campaigners such as Family First senator Steve Fielding.

„We already think the pokies plague is ruining families and destroying communities and the last thing we need is more pokies at airports or anywhere else,“ he said.

The BAC envisages control of gambling activities at the airport to be governed by the Queensland Government, which relies heavily on the taxes generated from the machines.

Already the rapid expansion of the airport has caused considerable tension between the BAC and the Brisbane City Council.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the council’s chief executive Jude Munro said the location of the discount retail project had caused „very serious traffic congestion“.

But Brisbane Airport spokesman Jim Carden said he was „gobsmacked“ by the allegations. „There is no DFO congestion and we have proven that to council and they still perpetuate that myth,“ he said.