Community centres at risk

THE state government's tax hike on poker machine revenue could see the demise of Bendigo community centres and create a shortfall in funding to charities and sports clubs.

Poker machine venues across the state will campaign against the tax, imposed this year, arguing it will rip $75 million from community clubs over four years. 

Community Clubs Victoria president Leon Wiegard said many centres - including Bendigo Club and Kangaroo Flat Sports Club - would be among those affected. 

Mr Wiegard fears the tax hike would cost jobs and place a funding burden on local clubs.

He said clubs poured $300 million into community groups every year and employed 15,000 people in Victoria.

"These are community clubs, they are not for profit, and it will mean less money going into the community for sports and recreation," he said. 

"It could have widespread implications and some clubs may be at risk and not be able to survive."

Treasurer Michael O'Brien announced in December that the state government would increase the tax rate applied to pokies venues.

He said the changes would correct the pokies tax system that had set rates for gaming venues too low to recover Victoria’s historical share of tax revenue, a mistake made during Labor's reform of the industry in 2008.

The changes are forecast to reap the government an extra $280 million by the end of 2016-17.

Kangaroo Flat Sports Club general manager Ken Yates said the club would be supporting the “Our Pain, Napthine Gain” campaign. 

"This is virtually the government attacking community clubs and the contribution we provide to clubs could be at risk," he said. 

The club has donated $1.2 million to community clubs since 1997, but Mr Yates said these donations could not continue under current conditions. 

"These contributions will become less and less and eventually disappear if these taxes continue," Mr Yates said. 

"The government has failed to see the long term affects of their decision because it will certainly have a long term impact on community centres and communities themselves."

​- with THE AGE


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