Michael Pascoe writes:

Having substantially rolled the Dilemma disorganisation, the NSW pokie club industry is moving on to another target – Treasurer Peter Costello. The question is whether the Feds are any harder to roll with the usual mixture of threats and donations.

Just when the one-armed bandit brigade was celebrating Premier Dilemma’s $400 million back down on pokie tax, one of its leading lights, Souths Juniors Leagues Club, was hit hard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling that it was not a tax-exempt sporting association.

The AFR broke the story yesterday with The Terror doing a follow up this morning running a rather pro-club line. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given the support for News Ltd’s NRL, even though the NRL had tried to ditch Souths:

The court’s decision was made despite Souths Juniors’ annual contribution of $500,000 to junior football, $500,000 to the premier league team and $1 million to the Rabbitohs. While the club claims 80 per cent of its profits go to junior league and the Rabbitohs, the tribunal decided only 34 per cent of those profits went to sport.

Officials from ClubsNSW were yesterday briefing a Treasury official on the impact of the tax – particularly the possibility of bowling clubs being forced to close if the Souths decision is seen by others as a precedent. The ruling could have ramifications for hundreds of sporting clubs.

This is the usual clubs line of pretending concern about the struggling local bowlo to protect the interests of the few major gambling palaces.

The court decided the main business of Souths Juniors was gambling and providing a good time for its 50,000 members with everything from $5 steaks to floor shows.

The extent of the mega clubs becoming self-perpetuating gambling empires was probably best exposed by Ian Temby’s 2004 inquiry into Penrith Panthers following a campaign by the SMH.

ClubsNSW is a powerful lobby group. Anyone suspicious about the power of the pokie dollar should keep a close eye on Dollar Sweetie to see if the court can be rolled as easily as the NSW government.

Peter Fray

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