Gambling tax is projected to yield the Victorian Government more than $74 million in extra revenue in 2010-11, up about 4.5% on 2008-09 figures.

The projected figure was given in a state Government report, Inquiry into State Government Taxation and Debt, by the Economic Development & Infrastructure Committee. The report was one of more than 200 recently released in State Parliament by the Brumby Government.

Gambling taxes accounted for an estimated 10% of the state’s tax revenue, the report said.

It described the use of gambling taxation for state revenue-raising as “partly problematic” because of the incidence of problem gamblers, for whom price increases — such as those induced by taxation — made no difference to consumption decisions.

The report noted that some sectors in the community had suggested that a high proportion of gambling revenue was obtained from gambling addicts.  It had been argued that if a substantial share of government revenue came from gambling taxes, there might not be sufficient incentives for the Government to introduce measures to reduce problem gambling.

However, the report said that the committee had not received evidence suggesting that government policy sustained or encouraged problem gambling.

Commenting on the report,  anti-gambling advocate Senator Nick Xenophon said the projected rise in revenue showed state governments to be “hopelessly compromised” when dealing with gambling revenue. “State governments can’t be trusted, as they are the number one jackpot junkies.

“The fact that state Government revenue is increasing at all indicates that whatever measures there are to tackle problem gambling, they are not effective.”

Senator Xenophon said that there also had been a recent rise in internet gambling, and said he hoped there would be a Government inquiry into that.

Dr Sally Gainsbury, of the Centre for Gambling Education & Research at Southern Cross University, said that the fastest growing form of gambling in Australia was sports gambling, a large component of which was internet gambling.

Dr Gainsbury also said that part of the projected rise in Victorian revenue could be the result of consumers spending more money on gambling as Australia came out of the financial crisis.

Matt Nurse, a spokesman for the Victorian Treasurer, attributed the increase to Victoria’s population growth and growing economy. However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in recent times Victoria’s population has been rising about 2% a year, so this cannot account for the whole projected increase.

Nurse said there were no plans to increase the number of poker machines in Victoria.

Peter Fray

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