Crown to push for pokies deal
James Packer's casino company Crown is expected to push for lower tax rates on high rollers in response to the Victorian government's plan to tax its 2500 pokies to the tune of $56 million a year.
Shares in Crown slid on Friday after the surprise announcement that Victoria intended to introduce a levy of up to $22,715 a year on gaming machine entitlements at the state's only casino.
But any tax change requires agreement from both sides, and Crown expects negotiations to conclude early next year.
In a statement to shareholders, chairman and 50 per cent shareholder James Packer said: "Both Crown and the Victorian government would like to see the Crown Melbourne resort continue to grow and to attract more overseas and interstate tourists."
"We look forward to continuing discussions with the Victorian government to create even more jobs, taxes and economic growth for the people of Victoria."
In announcing the changes in the state's budget update, Victorian Treasurer Michael O'Brien said the casino operator would be required to pay $5500 per poker machine in 2013-14, rising to $22,715 thereafter.
Similarly, the state announced that poker machine venues will be slugged via a 4.2 percentage point increase in the two top tax brackets for hotel and club venue operators.
Mr O'Brien said that change would restore a decline in the state's share of gaming machine revenue, which had fallen to 34 per cent from up to 38 per cent under the previous arrangement.
The government also said it would reduce the minimum return-to-player ratio to 85 per cent, from 87 per cent.
In the year to June, the amount punters lost at Victoria's 27,500 poker machines outside of Crown fell 7 per cent, reducing an important slice of revenue to the state.
Crown is Victoria's biggest single-site, private-sector employer.
The news caused Crown Resort's shares to slide, although they remain 49 per cent higher in the year to date. They closed 4.33 per cent, or 72¢, lower on Friday, at $15.90, with the company valued at $11.6 billion.