27 Jun

ACT Clubs fight to keep Casino Canberra Free of Poker Machines

Barr wants poker machines at Casino CanberraOf all Australia’s states, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has some of the most restrictive laws regarding gambling. ACT is home to just one regulated gambling resort – Casino Canberra – but it’s unlike any other traditional casino in the world, because it has no poker machines. The region’s clubs would like to keep it that way.

One of the major factors in the agreement between the Territory’s government and Casinos Austria International – the original owners of Casino Canberra who acquired the state’s only license to operate table games in 1992 – was that poker machines would not be permitted.

No pokies in a casino? For Australians anywhere else in the nation, that may sound ludicrous, but there was a genuine benefit behind the concept. The idea was to protect the revenue of non-profit organizations like Clubs ACT, which have always been privileged with the sole right to operate pokies. This revenue supports the local communities, funds youth athletics and benefits the territory as a whole.

That could change if Chief Minister Andrew Barr has his way.

Poker Machines Coming to Canberra?

There have been previous attempts to amend ACT’s laws to bring poker machines to Casino Canberra, and so far they’ve all failed. However, since Tony Fung’s Hong Kong-based Aquis Entertainment acquired Casino Canberra in 2014, the push to bring pokies to the casino has never been so strong.

Chief Minister Barr is supporting an amendment that would allow Casino Canberra to install poker machines, and Clubs ACT is fully prepared to campaign against him with myriad marketing materials that directly target Barr’s anti-Australian support of the “foreign-owned casino”.

Clubs began its campaign against pokies in casinos earlier this week, and has already reached at least 200,000 people. The organization is distributing countless flyers, coasters, posters, banners and mail-outs, bearing the message:

Labor Leader Barr’s deal with the foreign-owned casino is the last straw.

Labor Gov “Turned Their Back” on Clubs

Clubs ACT acting CEO Gwyn Rees explained their stance against allowing poker machines at Casino Canberra. “Barr’s decision to help out the Hong Kong-owned casino has dire impacts on your club, the locals it employs and the community and sporting groups it supports.”

According to Rees, ACT intends to introduce legislation in August that would give Casino Canberra permission to install up to 200 poker machines. “The ACT Labor government has turned their back on not-for-profit clubs,” said Rees.

However, Barr said whether the casino gets pokies or not is entirely up to the clubs. The region is only permitted to have a specific number of poker machines throughout ACT, and as of now, the clubs are already at capacity. By Barr’s reckoning, clubs would have to be willing to sell their machines to Casino Canberra.

“There will never be a single poker machine in the casino unless the clubs choose to sell them,” confirmed Barr.

Rees fired back, saying the legislation would “decimate” clubs, which are already struggling to stay afloat in an increasingly expensive economy. Licensing fees have skyrocketed, especially liquor licensees who stay open past 3am. Water expenses have nearly tripled  over the last three years. If clubs can hardly sustain themselves, Rees fears they will eventually sell out their poker machines to the casino.