The debate over pokies throughout Australia has been brewing for years. Some say they are a menace to society, while others say they are a necessary source of revenue for community programs. Premier Jay Weatherhill of South Australia says pokies clubs should be taxed at a higher rate, but at what cost to local youth?
Weatherill invoked a discussion last week regarding pokies taxes in South Australia. The document that went out suggested that clubs should pay an additional 10% tax on their poker machine revenue. Such an increase would put clubs in the same playing field as hotels in terms of gambling tax rates, but local clubs are not taking the news too well.
The Central District Football Club in Elizabeth, SA currently houses 40 poker machines. The revenue the club earns from those installments is used to fund its multitude of junior footballer programs, including development squads and coaching clinics at local schools. Club officials said that less revenue would force them to cut back the youth program.
A young Travis Schiller (with ball in hand) in 2008. In 2014 Travis won the SANFL League Powerade Star Search Award (rising star). Photo courtesy CDFC.com
Kris Grant, Chief Executive for the Central District Football Club, explained the situation in realistic terms. He said that an increase in the pokies tax, “would affect our whole operation, including the number of people willing to become members of the club, people utilising the club, and what we can offer in terms of cheap meals and our Aussie rules football development programs.”
Grant is concerned that local youth will no longer have access to a safe and dynamic environment designed to keep them on a healthy and positive path as they grow into adulthood. “We just spent $300,000 on junior football development,” said Grant, “and if our income is reduced that would suffer because it limits our ability to allow more kids to play the game, to get involved in the sport and to live a healthy and active lifestyle.”
The Para Hills Football Club took on a similar stance as it relies heavily upon contributions for the Para Hill Community Club on Bridge Road, where another 40 pokies are located. Club committee member Ben Foster said those contributions help to fund everything from their sports equipment to electricity costs. Thus an increase to pokies taxes, “would have a huge impact on the club because a lot of our sponsorship comes from our local community club and without their support it would be very difficult to put teams on the field.”
Similar sentiments came from Dennis Gregory, Treasurer of the Northgate Community and Sports Club. He said his organization puts on regular functions and free barbecues, but that the club would have to “prioritise what we put our funds into” if the new pokies tax is approved. “If our income stream is damaged,” said Gregory, “obviously people will suffer.”
According to Tom Koutsantonis, Treasurer of the South Australia Labor Ministry, community groups, businesses and clubs would be consulted before any decision is made. Koutsantonis advised all pokies clubs to submit their opinions for review. “We want to hear from South Australians about how to reform our state taxation system to make it more competitive, sustainable and fair.”