Smoking Apr 30, 2008 14:04:52 GMT -5
Post by Flash on Apr 30, 2008 14:04:52 GMT -5
THE NSW Iemma Government will defer the poker machine tax payments of scores of clubs in a bid to compensate for a loss of revenue since the indoor smoking ban came into force.
The Gaming and Racing Minister, Graham West, confirmed yesterday that the Government was drawing up a policy in response to a request from Clubs NSW to allow as many as 150 clubs to defer their payments for a year or 18 months.
About 20 clubs have asked for deferrals in their quarterly payments, citing indoor smoking bans as the reason.
It is the latest concession to hotels and clubs from the Government, which has benefited from political donations from both industries.
The Herald revealed yesterday that poker machine turnover fell 19 per cent in hotels and 11 per cent in clubs in March compared with the same month last year.
The figures showed that overall, between July - when the smoking ban was fully implemented - and February, pokie turnover fell 11.4 per cent in hotels and 7.7 per cent in clubs.
The Herald understands that big clubs such as Penrith Panthers and Balmain Leagues are among those that might apply for deferrals.
"We're still working on the finer details of [changing] the time-to-pay arrangements," Mr West said. "What we're considering is a clear … set of guidelines … so if the club goes into financial difficulty they know exactly what assistance they are likely to get and how to apply for it."
The chief executive of Balmain Leagues Club, Tim Camiller, said the club had not applied but might do so if it "had to".
"We have met all our tax payments as required to but the smoking ban with the gaming tax is hurting us considerably," he said. "Our revenues are down around 20 per cent and as we know the taxes are up in the [vicinity] of 40 per cent."
Mr Camiller was referring to a staggered tax rate rise for the biggest clubs from 24.5 per cent to 39 per cent.
The chief executive of Clubs NSW, David Costello, said a rescue plan was common sense. "The combination of increased gaming tax rates and the indoor smoking ban has brought many in the industry to its knees," he said.
"The impact is so severe that for some clubs, continuing to meet their tax obligations will see them close in coming months. The alternative is a situation where both State Treasury and the community lose out."
But the co-ordinator of Smoke Free Australia, Stafford Sanders, said he was not convinced clubs needed assistance. "I would want to know what's the evidence that clubs have lost revenue from the smoking bans," he said. "We know many other people are coming back into clubs who were being kept away by the smoke."
The Greens MP, Lee Rhiannon, also objected to the concession, saying: "The NSW Government is trying to keep Clubs NSW on side. Now they are at war with the unions [on electricity], they have decided they can't afford to make another enemy of a traditional ally. There is no justification for the Government allowing NSW Clubs to defer their tax payments. This is all about self-interest."