Dr Max Wallace, a director of Australians United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCAS) said today it was ironic that successful Tasmanian gambler, David Walsh, has to go to the High Court to determine whether it is legal for the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to tax his winnings:
"If David Walsh had started a church and simultaneously engaged in extensive gambling, his winnings would not be taxable. All religious organisations that meet the modest requirements of the ATO concerning registration as a religion, are free to participate in gambling activity and their earnings are tax-exempt. This is because all religions are legally charities and as such have tax-exempt status. This extends to their gambling and other commercial activities."
Max Wallace pointed out the Catholic Church has been involved in gambling for generations through its bingo games. Their gambling activities now extend to many Catholic clubs with a significant number of poker machines.
"In fact, in 2002, the then Catholic NSW member of the Legislative Council, Peter Breen, had written to the Pope to complain that His Holiness's picture graced the entrance doors to the gambling room at the Campbelltown Catholic Club, south of Sydney. " It was later removed. Also, the Melbourne Herald-Sun of 28 May 2002 had reported on two city poker machine parlours run by Catholic priest, Father Joe Giacobbe. Father Giacobbe was also reported as linked to the weekly racing form guide, Winning Post.
Max Wallace said: "It is not just the Catholic Church. On 2 February 1998 the Australian Financial Review reported that a commercial building destined to be the headquarters of the Queensland TAB was to be the subject of a long-term lease from the Anglican Church."
"In remaining secular, it looks as if David Walsh has backed the wrong horse. From a tax point of view, maybe it would have been better for David Walsh to build a cathedral rather than an art gallery with his winnings."