ClubsACT slams government over pokies offer

ClubsACT has slammed the government for offering Canberra’s casino access to 200 poker machines, local media reports.

In a statement released by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr last week, the casino has been offered access to up to 200 of the ACT’s 5,000 poker machines.

The offer was in response to Aquis Entertainment’s February proposal to the state government to allow pokies at the resort as part of it’s A$330 million (US$235.6 million) redevelopment.

Aquis, the owner of Canberra casino said at the time that a “full-service gaming model” was essential to attract tourists from Asia.

Poker machines are exclusive to community clubs in the ACT, with Canberra casino the only casino in Australia without any machines.

Gwyn Rees, chief executive of ClubsACT said the move was unacceptable.

“The ACT Government has attacked Canberra’s club industry for far too long,” Rees said.

“The Government has deliberately chosen not to consult the industry, which is very disappointing and frustrating, and will leave the community clubs very angry.”

“The government response to our bid is extremely encouraging, providing the ACT an opportunity to compete with other Australian cities actively pursuing integrated resort development,” Aquis said in a statement.

To get the 200 machines, Aquis will need to buy 267 from clubs, as the pokies trading scheme requires one in every four machines to be forfeited.

The casino operator said the development would help clubs diversify, giving them a chance to sell machines.

“We understand that clubs have been actively seeking to diversify their businesses over recent years,” said the company. “It is our hope that we can work positively with clubs to create a strong and cohesive industry.”

However, Rees said the move would siphon revenue away from the Canberra community.

“If the casino wants to make their money back … they will need to supercharge their returns and profits, this will mean going aggressively after the local market,” he said.

“This is not money returned to the community … but to a foreign owner.”

The Canberra casino expects to submit a revised development bid, which includes the 200 poker machines within weeks.