Clubs? smoking gun

By CRAIG McTEAR

WHEN club industry big guns rolled into Coffs Harbour yesterday, there was no mistaking who their enemy was.

ClubsNSW chairman Peter Newell called on the Government to lower tax rates on poker machine revenue because Treasury figures showed smoking bans would cost clubs between Bulahdelah and Tweed Heads at least $130 million between 2007 and 2010.

"The figures, which are buried in a single line of the 2005 State Budget, reveal the Treasury Department expects club poker machine revenue to fall by 10 per cent once complete indoor smoking bans are introduced in July, 2007," Mr Newell said.

"The cost of the smoking ban comes on top of the State Government's poker machine tax increases which force clubs on the North Coast to pay an extra $154m in tax between 2004 and 2010 and slash local employment by at least 1400 positions."

He said the Coffs Ex-Services Club, which will pay $9.2 million extra in pokie tax between now and 2010, but which stands to lose $6.7m in pokie revenue from the smoking ban between 2007 and 2010, was a prime example.

"We know that attitudes have changed to smoking and we've tried to work co-operatively with the Government on the issue, but by the Government's own admission, poker machine revenues will drop.

"Even before the State Government thought about smoking bans, poker machine tax was going to kill a hell of a lot of clubs.

"You only have to look at Victoria where a smoking ban introduced in 2002 saw gaming revenue plummet by 19.2 per cent to realise the NSW Treasury is spot-on with their prediction.

"The double whammy combination of poker machine tax increases and smoking bans will more than double the current number of 12 clubs that have either closed or amalgamated during the past decade on the North Coast."

With a State election looming, the club industry will continue to lobby fiercely over the issue.

That's why all eyes will be on the Coalition in October, when it is expected to release its clubs' tax policy.

Mr Newell said members of registered clubs throughout NSW would be fully informed about the policies of both sides of politics before they went to the polls.

Representatives of 100 registered clubs in the region were in the city yesterday to discuss the situation.



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