26 January 2024

Payout for clubs moving away from reliance on gaming machine revenue

| Claire Fenwicke
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Person playing a poker machine

The ACT Government is encouraging all clubs to move away from gaming machines as a source of revenue. Photo: File.

More than $1.5 million has been awarded to clubs across Canberra that are making concerted efforts to move away from pokie revenue.

The money for the annual Diversification and Sustainability Support Fund (DSSF) comes directly from clubs as part of a ‘tax’ on gaming machines in the Territory.

“Every poker machine in the city is required to make a contribution to this fund,” Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury explained.

“[If this fund wasn’t there the money] would go into the clubs, it would go into their bottom lines.”

The ACT Government has been working to help clubs move away from gaming machines as a significant source of income, already cutting pokie licences by about 25 per cent over the past four to five years.

Mr Rattenbury said this was about ensuring clubs weren’t as reliant on gaming machine revenue, rather than demonising clubs completely.

“We see the clubs as a really important part of the social fabric of our community; we want the clubs to have a long-term future,” he said.

“Clubs play a really significant role in our community … we want to make sure they remain part of our community while making sure we are tackling some of the negative consequences that can flow from harmful use of poker machines.”

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An independent body oversees the fund and applications and has awarded seven clubs with tier 2 funding this time round.

Funds for upgrades and improvements include:

  • $250,000 for Canberra Services Club to renovate and upgrade its conference facilities
  • $233,000 for Harmonie German Club Canberra to purchase equipment for outdoor catering
  • $225,000 to help Canberra Southern Cross Club convert a gas-fuelled kitchen to electric at its Tuggeranong venue
  • $225,000 to help Ainslie Football and Social Club redevelop its land surrounding Alan Ray Oval
  • $200,000 for the Hellenic Club of Canberra’s planning and design assessment for its multipurpose arena
  • $200,000 for Canberra Tradesmen’s Union Club to refurbish its restaurant
  • $184,000 to help Canberra Labor Club install new solar panels.

Canberra Southern Cross Club CEO Matt Walshe said the Tuggeranong application was about both diversifying revenue and increasing the sustainability of the club.

“What we found at Tuggeranong, moving to a full electrified kitchen, is that it’s really, really expensive – it’s the right thing to do from a sustainability perspective – but we needed some funds,” he said.

“The larger, new layout of our bistro and introduction of the indoor and outdoor spaces will enable the club to increase its offering and services to the community.”

Gaming machines make up about 37.5 per cent of revenue for Canberra Southern Cross Club, but the focus has been shifting to food and beverage, health and wellness, and land development opportunities to diversify revenue.

“[Gaming machines] are an important part of our income, we’re not shying away from that at all, and we will continue to operate on providing that responsibly as we’ve done for many years,” Mr Walshe said.

“[But] we’ve certainly … seen increased revenues [from other areas], so the more you invest into these areas – by contemporising them and making them more attractive to members and the broader Canberra community – you see revenue uplifts.”

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Conversations are continuing within the government on planned reforms which have been outlined in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, including the introduction of bet, credit and load-up limits.

Mr Rattenbury reminded the sector that it was still incumbent on individual clubs and the industry collectively to take responsibility and play a proactive role in moving away from gambling activities.

“Diversifying club income sources is in everyone’s best interests as we focus on strengthening the positive role clubs play in our community,” he said.

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Robert Maxwell9:45 am 28 Jan 24

So Canberra Southern Cross Club receives $24m in revenue from the pokies and the govt just awards them a quarter million for a kitchen to offset pokies??

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