Buckleys Entertainment Centre's new-look gaming room.

Gaming rooms are no longer the dark and dingy rooms they once were. Club operators are instead opting to create inviting modern spaces that are well-lit and spacious for punters to escape to.

It’s part of the reason why Salisbury North Football Club in greater Adelaide decided to completely relocate and rebuild its gaming room. According to general manager Daniel Parry, the former gaming room was originally housed between four walls in the middle of the venue.

“Imagine yourself being a patron, you had to walk through the entire venue, and pass everyone to get to the gaming room. Obviously, it isn’t great for privacy reasons,” he highlighted. “Then you had to walk past everybody, through the bars to go out and have a cigarette.”

The new gaming room was rebuilt as part of the club’s $1.9 million renovation that was completed in early December. For Parry, moving the gaming room has been on his to-do list for the last seven years. His wish to move the gaming room was granted by the board until last year.

“When you see your turnover plateau or dwindle, you’ve got to find the reason and for us, it was the location of where it was. There was no smoke room or real privacy in every direction to get in or out,” he said.

What was formerly an underutilised part of the club, Salisbury North Football Club has transformed it into their new gaming room.

The new gaming room has been built in what was formerly an underutilised part of the club. It’s now located just off from the club’s car park and features a smoking area in an attached beer garden, a full-service bar, a fully operation coffee machine with lounge seating, privacy screens for added character, and there are now four entrances into the gaming room.

“It’s a very big, modern room. It’s nice and spacious. No one’s sitting or breathing on top of each other unless they come in as a group of four or five, which can happen, but otherwise, nine out of 10 times, there’s ample space between every machine,” Parry said. 

“Basically, if Covid was to come in again, we’ve set it up so that we’re okay.”

Parry said since the facelift, the club has seen an increase in patron numbers and only positive feedback.

“I’ve not had one bad report come back, and that’s not just the gaming room but the entire venue being modernised.”

Room reshuffle

It was a similar story at Murray Bridge Club where the former gaming room was cramped and dark.  It was originally structured within the main club on the ground floor alongside the dining area and a bar. But following a two-year renovation, which saw the club strategically decide to relocate the main dining area upstairs, the South Australian-based club now boasts an expanded gaming room and sports bar area.  

“[The gaming room] historically lagged behind local competition, primarily due to space constraints. Originally designed for 20 machines, we had gradually increased the count to 30, leading to issues of cramped quarters,” Murray Bridge Club general manager Shane Barton-Ancliffe explained.

“Post-Covid, the demand for increased spacing between patrons prompted a redesign with a minimum of 1.2 metres between machines, centre-to-centre. This resulted in a more comfortable and open layout.

“In our pursuit of competitiveness, we pushed the limits by expanding to the state maximum of 40 machines. This not only diversified choices for our members and customers but also allowed us to create an inviting, light, and airy ambience, departing from the typical dark gaming room aesthetic.”

Added extras

Besides considering the ambience of the gaming rooms, club operators are also thinking about additional features that can be added to elevate their patrons’ experience.

For the Murray Bridge Club that meant installing a new fresh air system, as well as introducing 15 new state-of-the-art machines, while coupling it with classic favourites. Plus, as part of its commitment to inclusivity, Barton-Ancliffe said a conscious decision was made so that its machines continued to accept coins.

“[We’re] acknowledging that it remains a viable form of currency for some patrons,” he said.

The new gaming room at Murray Bridge Club is spacious and bright.

Buckleys Entertainment Centre CEO Michael Tonks meanwhile believes it’s all about making gaming rooms more user-friendly, creating additional privacy, and making the space more comfortable, such as with new stools that are light enough to be moved around easily.

“They also want the bells and whistles, so they want the free coffee, but they also want access to good quality meals at a reasonable price that is consistent with quality and portion size,” he added.

“They come to these venues because we’re a destination venue … the thing with us is we’re entertaining the whole family to what we see as best practice.”

One of the features Buckleys has introduced to its recently refurbished gaming room is two swanky lounge rooms that can accommodate up to 15 people each.

“Why they’re there is a two-fold reason. The first is it’s where people can sit down, have a glass of wine, have a cold beer before they play a bit of Keno. On Friday and Saturday nights, we’re generally booked out, but people can go and sit there, have a meal and a couple of beers. It’s just a little more casual than the formal dining room we have,” he said.

“From a business point of view, I’m also attracting more people closer to the poker machines to obviously improve business and revenue.”

The other key consideration for Tonks was making sure the club’s refreshed gaming room did not appear like the average “cookie-cutter” gaming room.

“Although we had state-of-the-art advertising screens that looked good, and the previous gaming room was fresh, it was neat, it was tidy. Now we’ve gone with the complete opposite with autumn tones and fresh finishes. I think it’s more of a warm feeling but still very modern.”

As a result of these additional touches, Tonks highlights Buckleys has seen a 12 per cent uplift in gaming since the renovation in November.

“To hear people say this looks absolutely fabulous to me is the reward.”

This article first appeared in Club Management Autumn 2024. Read the magazine in full here.

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