Brumby deal to increase Crown gaming tables - Friday 29th of May 2009

The Brumby Government has announced a 10.5 per cent increase in taxes on poker machines at Crown Casino over the next six years in exchange for an additional 150 gaming tables for the casino.

Gaming Minister Tony Robinson announced the changes this morning, saying the increase would see Crown brought into line with taxes paid by other pokies operators across Victoria.

He said the changes would net the Government approximately $60 million in additional revenue from the casino over the next four years.

Mr Robinson said the changes were important to ensure that Crown stayed competitive with other casinos Australia-wide.

Crown will now be able to expand the number of gaming tables at the casino from 350 to 500, doubling the number of poker tables from 50 to 100.

Crown Melbourne CEO David Courtney said the new tables would result in 300 extra jobs at the Casino and announced a $46 million upgrade to Crowns gaming facilities.

Crown executive chairman James Packer said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange that the changes would "assist us to maintain the Crown Entertainment Complex as one of the worlds great (casinos)".

But Opposition gaming spokesman Michael OBrien said the increase in tables showed the Government was more interested in propping up the state budget with gambling revenue then addressing problem gambling in Victoria.

He accused the Brumby Government of being reliant on gaming revenues and said that at a time when Victorians are facing economic hardship, they needed more support for problem gamblers, not increased gaming.

Interchurch Gambling Taskforce chairman Dr Mark Zirnsak described the expansion - and the increased gambling opportunities it would bring - as appalling.

"This coming at a time when theres a global financial crisis, its going to push more Victorians into being in hardship and vulnerable, he said.

Dr Zirnsak said the deal pointed to the "very cosy relationship between the Government and Crown".

"Theres been no consultation on this expansion, which we believe there should have been, and the timing is indeed appalling, he said

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