Victoria government denies gaming deal

Victorian Gaming Minister Tony Robinson has dismissed claims a deal has been struck to award a state lotteries licence to global gaming consortium Intralot.

The Victorian government is in the middle of a gaming tender that could see Tattersall’s lose its lottery monopoly in the state, if Intralot is allowed to enter the market.

The tender process has attracted several controversies, and is the subject of an upper house inquiry.

The latest probity claim surfaced on Thursday in a News Ltd report, which said Athens-based Intralot was set to receive a minor share of the USD 1.2 billion a year lottery sector, after secret negotiations.

The Intralot submission is believed to include expanding the sale of instant scratchie tickets in service stations and supermarkets, offering weekly prizes topping USD 1 million.

But Mr Robinson told parliament the story was wrong.

„This is a claim the government rejects very strongly, no deal has been struck, no decision has been made,“ he said.

Mr Robinson also denied the government had decided to expand the availability of scratchies, saying they were already widely available including through some supermarkets.

During Question Time, the opposition asked Premier John Brumby if his chief of staff Geoff Walsh had discussed lottery licences with Intralot’s representative Tony Sheehan – a former state Labor Treasurer – days before Mr Sheehan was due to give evidence to the upper house inquiry.

„Geoff Walsh didn’t have any meeting, as alleged,“ Mr Brumby said.

Mr Sheehan told AAP he did not wish to comment, other than to say Mr Walsh had „absolutely, categorically, definitely not“ contacted him.

The ABC reported last year that Victorian Solicitor-General Pamela Tate found Intralot had been denied natural justice, in a review of the tender process that has not been released.

The inquiry is examining the probity of the tender and Tattersall’s relationship with the government through lobbyist and former state Labor gaming minister David White.

Mr Brumby told reporters a steering committee was handling tender negotiations and there was nothing unusual about bidders meeting with the committee.

„No one in government has seen any of the bids, any of the bid details, any of the proposals,“ he said.

Opposition gaming spokesman Michael O’Brien said the matter needed to be investigated and access to gaming should be reduced, not increased.

„John Brumby is so dependent on gaming revenue to boost his coffers that he wants to see gambling extend to every aspect of Victorian life,“ he said.

Mr O’Brien said the owners of South Sydney rugby league club, Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, had set an example this week by announcing they wanted the associated leagues club to rid itself of poker machines.

„If South Sydney Rabbitohs can balance their budget without poker machines, perhaps John Brumby should look at doing the same thing here,“ he said.