Time has run out for clubs and pubs in Canberra to surrender their machines before the ACT government begins seizing them.

Clubs and hotels had until January 31 to exchange their poker machines for cash and other discounts before the governments regime of forced surrenders that aims to reduce the number of gaming machines in the city, takes place.

A spokeswoman from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate told The Canberra Times that it would be “premature” to speculate on the progress of the voluntary handback until after February 8, the date by which contracts must be signed.

The Canberra Times is reported to have spoken to several clubs that have confirmed they have put in a proposal but are unable to speak on the record until their submissions were approved.

It was first reported back in August last year that clubs in Canberra would get cash or a discount for each poker machine they voluntarily surrender in a bid to reduce the number of gaming machines in the city to 4,000.

As of November 30 2018 there were 4283 machines in operation in 44 venues across Canberra, although there were 4982 licenses in circulation.

It’s believed a number of clubs had been holding onto their authorisations because they might need them in future, or because their value may go up with the casino now able to buy licenses for 200 machines and 60 MTM’s.

The trading scheme originally announced to reduce the number of machines from 5000 to 4000 saw only 74 authorisations forfeited due to trade, and six surrendered.

But under the plan unveiled last year, small to medium clubs can get $12,000 per licence they give up and a discount of $25,000 on lease variation fees, while larger clubs can receive a $15,000 lease variation charge discount per authorisation.

The five hotels in Canberra that have gaming machines would also get $6000 in cash for each authorisation they surrendered but would be ineligible for the planning discounts.

Clubs will be forced to surrender their machines in two tranches – April 2019 and April 2020 – if the 4000 cap is not reached. Hotels would not be forced to surrender their machines.

The government is also still in discussions with clubs about changes to the community contribution scheme.

Under the proposed new rules, clubs would no longer be able to claim costs associated with professional sports – including wages for coaches and melee and forfeiture fines – as community contributions, unless there is a connection to women’s sport.

Facilities maintenance will also be banned as a community contribution, unless the facility is connected to women’s sport.

The changes are expected to be finalised by July this year.

Source: The Canberra Times