A POKIE venue operator has vowed to fight a radical Ballarat City Council gaming venue rate.
The council has proposed the new rate in its 2012-13 draft budget, which will charge Ballarat’s 15 poker machine operators 16 per cent above the normal commercial rate.
It will raise $70,000 annually to go towards problem gambling harm minimisation programs.
The controversial Tourism and Economic Development levy has also been dumped.
Ballarat mayor Mark Harris said the new rate recognised the impact problem gambling had on the community.
“Council takes a strong position in relation to gambling,” Cr Harris said.
“We want to put the bulk of the burden where it is appropriate.”
But Red Lion Hotel operator David Canny said a differential tax rate was wrong.
“They can’t pick and choose their rates,” Mr Canny said.
“We’re already paying a premium for our services. This is just a cash grab.
“It means money that would have been donated to footy clubs or kinders is now going to go into council coffers.
“If they’ve got to do this to balance their books, then they are being poorly managed.”
Mr Canny said he would take the rate to Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell.
Australian Hotels Association deputy chief executive officer Paddy O’Sullivan said gaming venues were already subject to considerable taxes, rates and charges which help provide problem gambling support services and research funding.
“The imposition of differential rating on gaming venues is an additional tax on gaming venues,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
But Victorian Interchurch Gambling Taskforce spokesman Mark Zirnsak said it was a very positive move by local government.
“This is a chance for local councils to claw back money that has been lost and reduce the harm caused,” Mr Zirnsak said.
“It also helps with the unfair advantage gaming venues have over other venues that don’t have poker machines.”
Cr Harris said other Victorian councils had taken similar steps, beginning with Maroondah in 2010.
He said the new rate would reflect the council’s gaming strategy, which was aimed at locating pokies in the CBD.
“Council has taken a strong position in relation to gambling. This will send a loud message to the community about gambling and the need to offset its costs,” he said.
“We don’t expect them (venue operators) to be happy about it but we have to take all ratepayers into account.”