Queensland rejects sports lottery idea

Queensland has rejected a federal government proposal to boost funding for elite athletes through a British-style national sports ­lottery, warning it would further embed gambling in sport.

The Palaszczuk government’s strident opposition to the lottery, first expressed during a meeting of sports ministers late last week, pits Australia’s most successful sporting state against the federal government’s centrepiece policy to arrest Australia’s declining performance at Olympic Games.

Federal Sports Minister Greg Hunt has assured the states that they would be left no worse off by a national lottery, which would compensate any losses to existing, state-based lotteries before any money being distributed ­towards sports programs, teams or athletes.

He has also agreed to extend a consultation period before the establishment of a national ­lottery following concerns raised by lottery agents and newsagents already facing uncertainty over the proposed Tabcorp takeover of Tatts, Australia’s largest lottery group.

State Sports Minister Mick de Brenni said it was “shortsighted’’ to tie sports funding to gambling.

“I think all states would agree that sport needs a significant ­injection of funding from the commonwealth across all ­levels,’’ Mr de Brenni said.

“Lotto is already a crowded field in Australia and there are real doubts about whether this idea would even be successful.

“Even more important, the Turnbull government’s proposal would take more money off working people and their families. It would involve creating hundreds of millions of dollars in extra gambling losses in the community.’’

The Queensland government last year raised $1.13 billion in gambling taxes and levies, ­including $242 million from lotteries. In 2015-16, lotteries contributed $1.2bn to Australian state and territory coffers.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt questioned how Queensland’s position was consistent with its approval of 2500 new pokie ­machines and unlimited gaming tables for the Queen’s Wharf ­casino development in Brisbane and its plan to issue new casino licences on the Gold Coast and in Cairns.

“Queenslanders would be surprised to hear the Palaszczuk government is backing more pokie machines but not measures to improve sport funding as Great Britain and New Zealand have already done,’’ the spokesman said. “It is particularly surprising given that Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt previously ­expressed his strong interest in the concept to the minister some months ago.’’

Queensland’s opposition will not kill the lottery idea. The federal government needs agreement from the states to authorise over-the counter ticket sales for a national lottery but can establish a national, online lottery without state approval.

The other states are open to supporting a national lottery, so long as existing lottery revenues are protected.

Tatts modelling estimates a national sports lottery would generate $50m in extra revenue. Britain’s ­lottery is the major funder of Team GB. Other European nations, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand all use lotteries to help fund their national sports teams.