The Victorian government wasn't about to make James Packer pay without talking to him first. When Treasurer Michael O'Brien announced a pokies levy to prop up government coffers in December, as the Herald Sun reports today
, the government said it was "subject to the satisfactory conclusion of negotiations and mutual agreement between the Victorian government and Crown to establish an outcome that delivers real value for both parties".
Now the government reportedly knows what Packer wants in return: tax breaks for its high-roller tables and an extension of its gaming licence for 99 years.
Talk about an ambit claim. But don't for a moment think the government will laugh it away like you might expect.
Packer has state governments wrapped around his finger. The New South Wales government just awarded him a prime harbour-side spot and a second Sydney gaming licence to move in. The Queensland government is wooing him for more casinos up and down the coast. And the Victorian government is more than happy to sit down and nut out a deal in Crown's favour. As the Hun
"The Herald Sun has learnt that the qualification had to be inserted at the last minute, and that the negotiation over the levy was added to broader discussions about Crown's operations.
"It is understood Crown was satisfied with the last-minute inclusion of the clause, and is adamant the levy will not go ahead unless both parties come to an arrangement."
Reckon the government, as addicted to gaming tax revenue as problem gamblers are to the pokies, would be as conciliatory to any other business or industry sector? Don't bet on it.