OUT OF LUCK: Goonellabah newsagent Peter Witten with one of the mainstays of his business – lottery tickets.
OUT OF LUCK: Goonellabah newsagent Peter Witten with one of the mainstays of his business – lottery tickets. Hamish Broome

Newsagents may lose their ticket and they are unhappy

LOCAL newsagencies may soon be fighting for survival when an exclusive five-year sales agreement with Tattersalls expires in April.

The changes would let the major supermarket chains sell lottery tickets and also impose costly ticket machine fit-outs on lottery agents worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Tattersalls says it is only planning to sell tickets in service stations - but Goonellabah newsagent Peter Witten is sceptical.

Mr Witten, whose shop is next door to Coles, said 80% of his in-store sales was from lottery products. "Lotteries are pretty much our point of difference; everything else we sell is already in Coles and Woolies," he said.

"It would make things extremely tough."

Mr Witten said newsagents who didn't have large news and magazine distribution networks like his own would be even worse off.

Labor leader Luke Foley has promised to extend the agreement until Tatts and the state's newsagents reached a "sensible commercial arrangement that is fair to all parties".

But Mr Witten pointed out it was Labor who sold NSW Lotteries for $2 billion to Tattersalls five years ago, which created the problem.

"They can intervene to stop it, but they could be liable to compensate Tatts if they do that," he said.

In Victoria a similar precedent was set when Tatts successfully sued the Victorian Government for $540 million.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance labelled Mr Foley's policy "economic ineptitude" which would cost the state in duties revenue, trigger compensation action by Tatts and "poison" business trust in the government.

"NSW Treasury estimates the potential loss to the state could be as much $1 billion for an ongoing extension of the moratorium," Mr Constance said.

Despite the risks, Labor candidate for Ballina Paul Spooner has backed Mr Foley's proposal, saying it was possible to stop Tatts suing the government via an amendment to the legislation.

"I think the intent is to honour the original moratorium," he said. "We need to be sure we're not squeezing local businesses out of the community."

Chairman of the Australian Newsagents Federation, Stuart Kilborn, said other states were better off, with Queensland businesses with more than 50 employees barred from selling lottery products.



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