A few months ago in an Australian first, the Tasmanian Parliament passed legislation that eliminates tax for online or so-called corporate bookmakers.
The legislation was included in a law passed to sell the state owned TOTE (like a TAB) and attracted little attention until we began looking into it for the 7:30 Report.
Any corporate bookmaker who wants to set up in Tasmania will only have to pay an annual $256,000 licence fee.
And while you may not have heard of corporate bookmakers, plenty of other people have.
According to Racing NSW corporate bookmakers expect to turnover $5 billion this year.
The Tasmanian government says it wants to attract the online gaming dollar to bring jobs to the apple isle.
The famous Waterhouse clan are interested and looking at their options.
The state’s Treasurer, Michael Aird, says the state could potentially become a world-wide hub for corporate bookmakers.
Its tax rate will be amongst the lowest in the world, comparable to places like Gibraltar and Malta.
But is it fair and could Tasmania do better with its tax break? How will other industries feel about it?
Imagine what a boost it would be to a plumber or a hairdresser or any other business owner and you suddenly got a multi-million dollar tax holiday.
And does Tasmania really want to be known world-wide for favouring corporate bookies above other employers?
The island state has a history of pioneering gambling options and opening doors for gaming companies.
It was the first state in the country to allow a casino to operate - after a referendum the Casino at Sandy Bay opened its doors in 1973.
It also let controversial betting exchange Betfair into the country back in 2006 when no other state would touch them.
At the time Betfair was attacked by established betting operators (who it must be said, had a gold mine to protect) on the grounds that allowing someone to bet on a team losing could lead to race fixing.
Betfair says it is about seven or eight times cheaper than traditional TAB betting and is empowering the punter by letting them bet against each other.
The Tasmanian government also gave away the exclusive licence to operate the state’s poker machines to a company called Federal Hotels without putting it out to tender.
In return for agreeing to build a resort at Coles Bay on the state's East Coast the company got a lucrative 20-year monopoly.
In other states the licences fetch millions, even billions of dollars and the state opposition has been strongly critical of the deal.
The Liberal opposition does support the tax break for corporate bookmakers but it’s opposed by the Greens.
It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few years and whether bookmakers really do flock south.
The government has certainly given it a good crack and another chapter in Tasmania’s long history of gambling may be written. (Credit: ABC)
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