Friday, July 03, 2009

Call to sell off more pokies, by Kim Wheatley - News Limited - 1st July 2009

Welfare groups have called on the Government to deregulate poker machine sales - even if it means pubs make a windfall profit.

This follows the stalling of the Government's planned cull of 3000 poker machines, which was introduced in 2005.

The Australian Hotels Association said the $50,000 cap on the sale of the machines wasn't enough of an "incentive" to sell the 750 that were yet to be removed.

Interstate, where the market is deregulated, machines have sold for as little as $13,000 or as much as $300,000.

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While welfare groups and the Opposition remain critical of the Government for failing to deliver on its promise, Uniting Care Wesley's Mark Henley called for the immediate introduction of the open market – despite the prospect of the pubs hitting the jackpot.

"That's better than having more venues, more machines and more problem gambling," he said.

But AHA (SA) general manager Ian Horne said the removal of the machines "had no real impact on revenue, and it's hard to see how it's had any effect on problem gambling".

In a Budget Estimates hearing on Friday, Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the Government was waiting for a February Productivity Commission report before considering any industry changes.

Opposition gambling spokeswoman Michelle Lensink claimed the Government was "sneakily trying to hang on to the tax revenue generated". (Credit: News Limited)

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