9 August, 2021
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The Alliance for Gambling Reform has applauded NCOSS for withdrawing from the NSW ClubGrants scheme.
The NSW Council for Social Service (NCOSS) has told its 450 member groups and the state government that it no longer has faith in the scheme, which is supposed to redistribute tax breaks on clubs' poker machine profits from large clubs to community groups.
Alliance Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said it was an open secret that the ClubGrants scheme was a rort open to exploitation.
"Frankly, this scheme is dodgy and has been providing very little benefit to the community,” Rev Costello said. “It’s been a fantastic PR scheme for clubs though, and a very effective and legal way for them to use what should be taxpayer funds to benefit their mates and pet projects.
“We’ve seen relatively tiny and very worthy grant requests of $7000 and $10,000 not being funded despite being assessed as being recommended for approval. Yet Clubs such as Wests HQ have gone ahead and chosen projects they wanted to fund, including a think tank run by one of their lobbyists and a fun run they had a sponsorship deal with.
“They act as if this money is theirs to spend as they see fit, not what is essentially deferred tax and thus in reality public money. This scheme is completely unfit for purpose and needs a major overhaul with the true benefit of the community in mind, not what’s best for the gambling industry.
“Hotels pay higher taxes on their poker machine revenue, as they should, but they don’t get a say on where that money goes. The shameless rorting of the system by clubs should mean that they too forfeit their right to distribute these funds. That should fall to the community itself, it’s their money.
“It is shocking that not only the clubs have been ducking around the rules, but that there appears to be a failure in Liquor and Gaming to properly document the grants in order to substantiate the tax discounts. This must be immediately rectified.”
Rev Costello said the gambling industry owed it to the people it took from so heavily to at least support the communities harmed by gambling.
“The gambling industry disproportionately targets stressed areas as inevitably they can maximise their profits by exploiting these people,” he said.
“If Clubs can fund think tanks, surely they can throw a few thousand dollars in grants to literal soup kitchens there to help people experiencing disadvantage and other issues, including gambling harm. Instead they’re helping their mates out with what are essentially taxpayer funds. It’s an utter disgrace.”
Anna Bardsley lost 10 years of her life to gambling. She knows firsthand how little the gambling industry cares for the community or people experiencing gambling harm.
“While I am sure some people will be shocked to hear of this awful, deliberate manipulation of community grants, I can’t say that I’m surprised,” Ms Bardsley said.
“This is a predatory industry who views people as dollar signs and profits, not human beings who have families to feed and lives to lead. They know the people experiencing the worst gambling harm are their best customers. They want to exploit them, not help them.
“For too long the gambling industry has had tremendous influence over those in power, regardless of their political colours. That’s how we’ve ended up in this situation with what in theory should be a good system, but is so open to exploitation by the gambling industry.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]
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