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Pokies launch Qld clubs into new era (1991)

November 24, 2012

90's Flashback

… but their introduction sparks mixed reactions

Flashback to Variety Today, 1991

By Steve Pattrick

THE year of the poker machine for Queensland has arrived. After lengthy delays through government legislation and legal loops which have dragged on since last July, poker machines are almost here.

Almost all clubs in Queensland are geared up for them, have been for a year and, with the February legislation and current tendering and training the only hold-ups, we can expect the first machines to be rolling their reels in May, 1992.

It is apparent the Goss government can take a little credit for the introduction and for many a club manager Labor is the Queensland club saviour. Then it has been a long time coming and perhaps too late for some.

The Goss government has perhaps come to the rescue of the Queensland clubs. But opinion as to the benefits of pokies in Queensland is divided.

 

The Goss government has perhaps come to the rescue of the Queensland clubs. But opinion as to the benefits of pokies in Queensland is divided.

 

There are still clubs, some which have church funding, which believe the pokies will attract the wrong element, ie crime, but this thinking is outdated according to most.

Strict government control has assured clubs introducing the gambling facility that they will be well policed as is the case in Queensland’s two casinos. The benefits far outway the disadvantages.

President of the Registered Clubs Association in Queensland, Colin Lamont said the machines have been a long time coming and Queensland clubs will reap the rewards from their introduction.

“There has been some apathy towards the pokies but I am in full favour of their introduction,” he said.

“If you look at the positive angle of the introduction of pokies to Queensland, employment has to be a key issue. Staff will have to be employed to accommodate areas such as maintenance and change facilities.

“The revenue from the machines will be poured back into the clubs, providing more facilities in the entertainment areas which also means more employment. The clubs who spend money will in the long term make the money. The members will benefit and so will the communities in which they live.

A big plus is that more money will stay in Queensland. More than 70 million dollars each year is taken across the border to be spent in the NSW clubs. “I believe this state will retain half this anmount when the machines come in,” he said.

What poker machines have done for NSW is virtually common knowledge now.

Panthers Leagues Club in Penrith is one of the most successfully financial clubs in Australia – accredited mainly to the pokies and its strong and supportive members. “The money brought in through gambling here has contributed to the development of its junior football teams, making Penrith one of the strongest football clubs in the country. It has initiated coaching programs for the junior sides and provided some of the best training facilities in the state for its sportsmen,” a spokesman said.

Although not purely a sporting club, Twin Towns Services Club at Tweed Heads, long recognised as the `best club in Australia’ and the winner of awards in this section, has wisely invested money from the pokies back into the club to make it more attractive to its members and guests.

Secretary Manager Russell Roylance said the club was the success it was because of the poker machines. “But it has not been the main thrust of the club – it has to be really a combination of things,” he said.

“Hopefully Queensland clubs won’t fall into the trap of thinking poker machines are all you need to keep afloat. Sound business principals are necessary and professional management controls are paramount.”

At present Queenslanders make up 65 per cent of the Twin Towns membership.

Mr Roylance said he could expect a dilution of that percentage once the machines are introduced to Queensland but the location of the club on the tourist belt will more than keep it at its present strength.

“We have had the highest turnover and profitability in the country since 1978,” he said.

“Revenue has allowed the luxury of building the $6 million Sports Club at Banora Point. We are currently looking at a large project for the installation of the multi-storey carpark station, a convention centre, accommodation tower and shopping arcade. We are giving back to the members and guests what they are putting into the club and that’s where the success of any good club lies.

“More than $40 million dollars has been spent on the club in the past 10 years. The major percentage of profit comes from the poker machines,” he said.
Mr Roylance said the tax imposed by the Queensland government on the clubs with pokies won’t reach the level it is looking for. “If all the incentive is taken away through the tax, they won’t take off because clubs won’t lease the machines from them. If the clubs have to give back most of the pokie money in tax, then the introduction of the machines in Queensland just won’t work,” he said.

Under the present policy of leasing machines, Queensland `players’ won’t have any choice as to the type of machine they can play. On the same hand, clubs will only be able to lease the designated models.

So it appears there are still some restrictions at hand when the machines come across the border.

But whichever way you look at it, the new era for clubs in Queensland will be welcomed with open arms and pockets!

 

ADDED INFORMATION (1991)

 

IN 1987, in the September issue of Club Life Pictorial, the `gospel according to licenced clubs’, there was a feature article titled `Clubs Under Siege’. It was an in-depth article relating to the plight of Queensland clubs and how they were facing an uphill battle to survive. That year was a grim year fro many Queensland clubs, with several feeling the bite and struggling to pay their licence fees.

Of the 777 registered clubs in that year, 10 percent were having trouble paying their licence fees, which is based on 8 percent of liquor purchased by the club.

There are now 800 registered clubs in Queensland, most of which exist purely on liquor sales alone (specially RSL clubs) while sporting clubs make it through on liquor sales and ticket sales to sporting fixtures.

The Queensland Police Force has made an indirect dent in sales with its introduction of Random Breath Testing (RBT).

An average fee was around $40,000 for a successful club, larger clubs paid up to $70,000 and smaller clubs around $6000.

For many clubs in 1990, things haven’t improved. Competition from the hotels who have continued to improve on facilities for its patrons have taken its toll. But all this is about to change.

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