Gallop gambles on pokie ban

While the Gallop Government ponders the immense cost of a new rail link to Mandurah, there is no shortage of advice coming from those in the gaming sector about where some handy revenue might appear from.

Just two weeks ago, WA Business News revealed casino king James Packer met Dr Gallop for some discussions.

Much of the subsequent speculation has centred on the keeness of the Packers for a lifting of the 10 per cent ownership cap at Burswood Casino, and what they might give up in return.

While Labor has so far been as steadfast as its Liberal predecessor in resisting the call for gaming to be extended beyond the boundaries of Burswood, this week Dr Gallop appeared to change the agenda somewhat in calling for Federal Government to support the WA stance.

The Premier said WA forgoes about $215 million a year in revenue by not allowing poker machines.

However, a spokesman for the Premier said poker or gaming machines remained out of bounds, except for the casino.

“It is not flagging any policy shift in terms of poker machines or Burswood,” the spokesman said.

Its understood the casino would prefer poker machines because the win rates are much higher than the 7 per cent earned from the 1,000 or so video gaming machines it is currently allowed to use.

It would also like to see tax rates lowered on its international business, allowing it to compete better with Australian rivals who do not face the 15 per cent levy in revenue that Burswood does across the board.

Many hoteliers would also like to have poker machines in their premises.

At this stage, the Australian Hotels Association has only sought gaming machines for hotels, an arrangement which would require Burswood to give up its monopoly either in return for other concessions or by allowing it to lease the machines out to other operators.

The AHA used Dr Gallop’s funding request to call for a summit on gaming machines in WA.

AHA executive director and WA Business News 40under40 winner Bradley Woods said revenue for WA was a key issue to be considered.

Mr Woods did not expect the State Government’s request for compensation would be considered favourably.

The AHA knows it needs Burswood’s agreement to get gaming for its members, even though the association’s own estimates show the introduction of widespread gaming machines has little impact on incumbent casinos.

But whether or not that is an option for the casino operator is another question.

Burswood would not talk about its negotiations with the State Government and a spokesperson for Racing and Gaming Minister Nick Griffiths said he remained committed to keeping gaming machines out of pubs and clubs.

DJ Carmichael analyst Peter Strachan said the ownership cap and maintaining Burswood’s casino monopoly were the main items of interest to the Packers and the market.

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