Debnam pokes at club tax

THE NSW coalition would freeze gaming machine taxes at the 2005 rate for its first term should it be elected to government, Opposition Leader Peter Debnam said yesterday.

Mr Debnam yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with the State's registered clubs at their annual conference in Tweed Heads to freeze the tax at the 2005 rate if the Opposition was elected at the next election.

He said the NSW Government's clubs tax, which was introduced in 2003, had had a devastating impact on the clubs and the community activities it supported.

"By 2010, when the last of Labor's seven tax escalations is due to hit, Labor's total tax ask from clubs will have increased by $1.6 billion ? more than double," he said.

"The clubs, tax has already forced the closure of some smaller clubs and the loss of an estimated 2000 jobs."

The tax had forced clubs to slash donations to sporting groups, community bodies and charities such as the Starlight Children's Foundation and CareFlight.

ClubsNSW chairman Peter Newell welcomed Mr Debnam's promise to freeze the tax and said it would put an end to club closures and amalgamations that had occurred as a result of the tax.

"While we can never get back the clubs and community facilities that have been lost during the past decade, the plan developed by the NSW coalition to save the club industry will stop the pain we are all suffering as a result of the increases in poker machine tax," he said.

Acting Premier John Watkins said the NSW Government was currently discussing the tax with the State's clubs.

"There have been a range of discussions between the club movement and the Government regarding the tax and other measures," he said.

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