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The RSL and the Hellenic Club

By johnboy - 6 November 2008 54

The Canberra Times has a piece on the RSL Club in Civic (somewhat distinct from the RSL which looks after returned soldiers, but it’s a line both sides have deliberately blurred over the years) running itself into the ground and selling out to the Hellenic Club.

It’s a little sad for the old boys who argue the toss on veteran’s pensions and will have to either start paying rent somewhere or work from home.

But for mine it raises a bigger question of why these mega “clubs”, who are also major political donors, are being allowed to roam the landscape becoming ever larger entities, ever less accountable to their members.

(When was the last time you were invited to the Annual General Meeting of a club which you are supposedly a member of? I’m still waiting.)

Between the Hellenic Club and the pacman-like Southern Cross Club, they’ve just become corporations with a gambling licence.

Is it time to clean up the clubs, set maximum sizes on them, and give them back to their members?

And does anyone in this town have the courage for it?

What’s Your opinion?

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54 Responses to
The RSL and the Hellenic Club
Granny 10:19 am 06 Nov 08

I think clubs could be done a lot better. They’re pretty tacky and boring in many ways.

p1 10:18 am 06 Nov 08

Prehaps a scheme whereby the government increases the tax the charge the clubs on pokie revenue, and distributes that extra money to any licensed venue that doesn’t have pokies?

justbands 10:14 am 06 Nov 08

I dunno…my local club was a complete dive. It’s since been taken over by a larger club, refurbished & is now actually a decent place to go. The focus on pokies has diminished. They are still there, they’re just not the main thing about the club anymore. They are hidden away from the (far greater) family friendly sitting & eating areas. The drinks are cheaps, the foods great. It’s now serving this member of the community a lot better than it ever did before.

jakez 10:08 am 06 Nov 08

johnboy said :

I’d far prefer to see five small bars serving a variety of customers than one mega bar luring the lowest common denominator with blinking lights.

The big clubs no longer serve their purpose of providing a meeting place for any particular community group and as such should be wound up IMHO.

Yeah, or you could piss off and leave the happy patrons to their patronising.


jakez 10:02 am 06 Nov 08

That damn Hellenic Club. Give it a few more years and it will definitely be just like Umbrella Corp out of Resident Evil.

Pokie players and steak eaters unite! You have nothing to lose but your tuesday night bingo discount!

johnboy 9:55 am 06 Nov 08

Club size is easy to limit, cap the number of poker machines each club can own.

Without the pokies they’re sub-standard bars. Remember all those plasma tvs and neo-fascist uniforms are paid for out of “community contributions” from the damn poker machines, money that’s supposed to go to community groups but they instead spend on themselves.

I’d far prefer to see five small bars serving a variety of customers than one mega bar luring the lowest common denominator with blinking lights.

The big clubs no longer serve their purpose of providing a meeting place for any particular community group and as such should be wound up IMHO.

Skidbladnir 9:53 am 06 Nov 08

Fine, ‘corporations’ withdrawn.
You’re calling for business operations to go down the ethical & accountable route, but with what gain to the operation?

caf 9:51 am 06 Nov 08

Oh, and a mandatory remuneration report, to be voted on at the AGM.

Duke 9:49 am 06 Nov 08

Remember a few years back the Helenic management was in The Crimes crying about how the smoking ban was going to destroy their business and they would have to lay off huge numbers of staff????

Cue ahead two years later and nothing has changed. Helenic has so much money they have to find new and more obscene ways of unloading it.

GB 9:48 am 06 Nov 08

There’s not much wrong with big clubs taking over small ones, if the alternative is them closing. But there’s a lot wrong with them getting all kinds of concessional treatment from government. And even more wrong with them making money out of people with a gambling problem. I don’t think these things are much affected by size.

caf 9:47 am 06 Nov 08

I’m not sure how you’d implement workable rules to limit their size – number of members clearly won’t work, asset or cash base is a problem because assets tend to appreciate over time.

What would seem to be better is forcing them to adopt better corporate governance, since that’s the root problem you identify. Mandatory notification of GMs to members, eliminating the “undirected proxy vote” rort, equal space to board challengers in board election materials.

johnboy 9:44 am 06 Nov 08

Corporations in the ACT don’t get to operate poker machines.

Skidbladnir 9:43 am 06 Nov 08

In economic times like these, when discretionary spending on pokies (they’re not a gambling machine, they’re “Gaming Entertainment With A Return) going to be down except in the case of the hardcore addicts, the club’s ability to execute mergers, acquisition, and effect economies of scope & scale amongst the Biggers is how they’ll survive and keep a tidy profit.
Expect the life to be quickly strangled out of smaller players the moment they show any sign of weakness.

You’re calling for corporations to exhibit ethical behaviour, but with what motive or gain for the entity?

AG Canberra 9:33 am 06 Nov 08

I worked at a club that was gobbled up by a much larger one – and while it wasn’t the best of times – it was certainly better than having the place close forever.

The main reason that most of the smaller ones go under is their debt to banks. Most trade “ok” but when it comes to servicing debt often they struggle. Ours was “bought” for the cost of the debt – which at the time was about $600k. I do know it was the happiest day of the managers life when he was able to walk in and present a cheque for that amount to the bank – and then proceed to close all accounts there.

We quickly realised the reson we would never be able to compete with the big boys – input costs. To give you an example – we bought lightbulbs for approx $1.10 each. When we had the purchasing power of the bigger club – they suddenly dropped in price to 70c. And this was seen across the board – in all purchases from beer, to lease costs on pokies to cleaning contracts.

I actually support the bigger clubs taking over the smaller ones. It is not as if they are buying them up and then shutting them down. And in most (if not all) cases without that lifeline the place would have closed.

peterh 9:32 am 06 Nov 08

JB, why would you limit the club’s size? the Hellenic club, Vikings and the Southern Cross clubs are large entities in town, but i would prefer that there was a club for me to go to in moore street, rather than a vacant site. If the RSL couldn’t run at a profit, and sold itself to the hellenic club, it is a sad loss, but hopefully the hellenic club will take the original members into consideration.

The fact that these clubs purchase failing entities prior to them closing, means that they are supporting the community. they keep our watering holes open. They do this because they are a club, not a charity. I receive my annual report from 2 of the club chains I belong to, i usually just circular the report, it isn’t of interest to me.

They are being run as a business. they are a business.

Imagine, if you will, if ABN was a club, and started buying other small venues around town, would you be against their expansion plans?

It is good to see these clubs expanding during the downturn, rather than sacking workers.

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