Regions may be missing out in random casino charity deals

THE almost $50 million a year earmarked for charities by casinos operating in Queensland has been handed out with little supervision, prompting concern that regional areas are being dealt a raw deal.

Each of the state's four casinos has a board-controlled Gambling Community Benefit Fund, which donates a portion of the casino's revenue to worthy causes through a grants process.

For the 12 months to November 2012, this amounted to $47.8 million.

A report by the Queensland Auditor-General Andrew Greaves, and its consideration by the Queensland Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee, found there was little information on why certain groups were given grants.

Documents filed to Parliament this week showed the Committee is now backing a suite of recommendations to apply scrutiny and transparency to the grants system.

The Auditor-General's report found from May 2010 to May 2012, a single group was given two payments of $552,000 by two separate funds for the same grants application.

This means while one group was given double what they needed, others were missing out.

Committee chairman and Ipswich MP Ian Berry said he suspected the boards handing out these grants could be focused on local conditions, putting those from out of town at a disadvantage.

Mr Berry said when two almost identical grant applications compete for funds - one from nearby and one from a further-flung regional area - it was hard to tell if the decision was made fairly.

"It needs to be opened up," he said.

"That will need fairness for all of Queensland."

Mr Berry said he did not believe the boards nor the community groups were acting maliciously, but there needed to be accountability.

The State Government has until the end of March to respond to the Committee's distilling of the Auditor-General's report.

Gambling in Queensland is a popular pastime, particularly in regional areas.

Calculations done by APN in late December showed Gladstone spent more on pokies each year - the equivalent of $684 per person.

It is 50% higher than those in Brisbane who have access to a casino.For anyone needing help, call the national gambling help hotline on 1800 858 858.

Amount spent from Nov 2012 to Nov 2013 per person on poker machines:

  • Gladstone: 684.60
  • Mackay: $672.25
  • Isaac: $612.77
  • Rockhampton: $587.07
  • Bundaberg: $584.66
  • Fraser Coast: $575.33
  • Cairns: $556.05
  • Gold Coast: $534.56
  • Townsville: $514.20
  • Sunshine Coast: $488.85
  • Ipswich: $459.69
  • Toowoomba: $429.76
  • Brisbane: $421.32
  • Gympie: $297.67