Melbourne’s embattled Crown Casino will pay more taxes on its 2,600 poker machines under changes to be spelled out in the Victorian budget next week.
Most important points:
- The government will increase $30 million in revenue each year from 2023 through higher taxes on poker machines
- More than $55 million has been allocated to bring Crown Casino in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission
- Unions have expressed concern over $1.7 billion in planned public sector cuts over the next three years
Due to the tax increase, the casino will pay the same amount in tax on the profits from slots such as clubs and pubs.
For years, the government was unable to raise the tax rate without paying hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation because of laws made in 2014 by the Napthine government.
But in the wake of the scathing Royal Commission at Crown Casino, the state government scrapped that provision.
Gambling taxes are worth $2 billion in the state coffers. Treasurer Tim Pallas said the change would increase sales by $30 million a year from July 2023.
“This is a fair way to make sure every taxpayer pays their share,” Pallas said.
The Andrews administration will also spend $55.6 million to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission at the casino, which found Crown Resorts ill-suited to retain its license.
But instead of tearing up its license, the government has given Crown two years to improve its practices and show that it can run the multi-billion dollar business well.
A dedicated monitor has been set up to oversee Crown’s operations, with the bulk of the $55 million going to that work.
“We will continue to implement the reforms and investments needed to strengthen oversight of Crown and the entire Victorian gambling industry, with a focus on minimizing damage,” said Melissa Horne, Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation.
A Crown spokesperson told ABC that “Crown will work with the Victorian government on the proposed changes”.
Unions urge restraint in planned cuts to public services
The normal run-up to the state budget has been overshadowed by the federal election. It has meant that the Andrews administration has not had its normal number of announcements ahead of next Tuesday’s budget.
The budget will have a major focus on health, with a blitz on the surgery waiting list already announced.
Debt has continued to rise in recent years as the government borrows to pay for its COVID response and build new infrastructure.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy predicted that debt would continue to rise.
The government is also lobbied by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) to facilitate planned public service cuts.
Before the pandemic, the government conducted a basic public service assessment to inform where savings can be made.
Public sector wages are still a significant part of the budget and $1.7 billion in cuts are planned over the next three years.
CPSU Secretary Karen Batt has urged the government to be wise, because budget cuts could reduce service to Victorians.
“We think there is a threat to the quality of service, there are delays in just about every government program now,” said Ms Batt.
“If there are fewer civil servants to do the work the Victorians need, those backlogs will get longer and longer.”
A Victorian government spokesman said the government is committed to the savings set in previous budgets.
“We are executing our four-step fiscal strategy that continues to drive Victoria’s economic recovery and maximize benefits for all Victorians,” he said.