The Victorian government’s deal to extend Crown’s Melbourne casino licence is grubby and shameless, a leading gambling reform campaigner says.
Crown’s licence has been extended to 2050, with an increase to the number of table games and poker machines, in exchange for additional payments of up to $910 million to the state.
Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce chairman Reverend Tim Costello says the agreement announced by James Packer’s Crown Resorts and Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien is grubby and shameless.
“Grubby, because James Packer has really fleeced the Australian public, and when Minister O’Brien says it’s a win-win, it’s a win for the Liberal Party now going cashed up into an election,” he told AAP on Friday.
He said it was a licence to print money for Mr Packer and Crown who could “promote the gambling footprint relentlessly”, but a terrible loss for the Victorian community which had shifted its gambling attitude.
“Gambling is actually an addictive product that the more you advertise and dress up, and target the next generation, the more easy money you make,” Rev Costello said.
Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings said Labor was waiting to see the details of the deal and would talk to industry, unions and affected parties.
“We know that Michael O’Brien has a track record of botching this issue,” he told reporters.
“We can’t actually give you a tick to it without actually knowing the details.”
Greens leader Greg Barber said the deal needed to be scrutinised before it was voted on in parliament.
He believed the deal could stop parliament increasing tax rates on the casino “for decades to come”.
Crown’s statement says casino taxes will not be increased, and the Melbourne Casino Licence will not be amended, without Crown’s consent.
Mr Barber said cutting spin rates, introducing $1 bets and reducing caps on poker machines in disadvantaged areas would help stop problem gambling.