ACT Government Approves Only 200 Pokie Machines For Canberra Casino
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has issued its approval for Hong Kong-based Aquis Entertainment to procure 200 pokie machines from Canberra community clubs for its Canberra casino.
Acquis Entertainment bought the casino back in 2015 and is investing A$330 million to give the casino a complete makeover.
The company had requested the ACT government for as many as 500 pokie machines in return for its $330 million investment.
The ACT government decided to approve only 200 poker machines as against the 500 that had been asked for in the initial proposal. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that 500 pokies were too many and asked the casino to submit a revised proposal for 200 machines. Barr rejected the company’s request to purchase the machines over and above the existing 5,000 machines in Canberra clubs. He has instructed the company to purchase the pokie machines from the clubs under the existing caps.
The decision is a setback for Canberra clubs who until now have had a monopoly on the operation of poker machines in the region and have been protesting strongly against the new proposal from Acquis.
The news was also disappointing for Acquis as under the current trading scheme, the casino would need to buy 267 machines to be able to operate 200 machines. To get the approval to operate 200 machines casino will need to pay higher taxes than the clubs, contribute higher amounts to community donations than what the clubs do and implement more rigorous problem gambling regulations in the casino.
Barr added that that the government would arrange it such that the smaller clubs are given the first option to sell its pokie machines, although he did not mention how that would be carried out. So far there has been no discussion on how much the clubs will sell the pokie machines for. While some hotel establishments have sold the machines for A$18,000 each, a few club sources have said that the price could go as high as A$50,000 per machine.
The decision to award the pokies to the Canberra casino has been widely criticized by the clubs. The Canberra Raiders clubs said that the government had broken its promise by approving the licensing of 200 pokies. The government signed a deal with the club during the last election saying that it would support the community gaming model. Chief executive Rob Docker of Tradies Group, which is another clubs’ group, said that the clubs must fight for significant concessions so that the casino has no significant advantages left.