Now that NSW Labor leader Chris Minns is off the fence, the clubs industry – and their members – can take in all propositions regarding gaming reform in the lead-up to the State election in March.
With Minns finally making his stance known, the conversation has to include how any government, Labor or Coalition, can support clubs in creating alternative revenue streams to gaming which often funds local sporting and community organisations.
While the number of machines has grown exponentially as larger club groups have gobbled up smaller clubs, and other financially unviable venues have relinquished their licences, the small local club is under another threat yet again, even if it managed to survive Covid shutdowns.
What happens when the well runs dry? Will the State Government step in to offer grants to outfit the local footy club or netball team? I doubt it. Do small clubs have the capacity to pivot if suddenly restrictions are placed on patrons’ gaming? Probably not. And what happens to the cash support they offer in the community? Instant drought.
I’d be encouraging all club managers – large and small, city and country – to meet and talk with their local MP and throw around some ideas on how their local clubs and local community groups can still be supported should club gaming revenue be hit post- or pre-election, as clubs are often the lifeblood which keeps community groups alive. And don’t forget, this has been a build-up of machines over decades with both political parties at the helm, all benefiting through billions in taxes and millions in donations, and it’s now politically convenient to change their tune, deflect blame or throw barbs, from Bob Carr to Dominic Perrottet.
Is the more immediate solution a phased-in approach to reduce the number of machines or the daily limits at bigger clubs? Or is the longer-term play to allow the now-large companies behind big regional and metro club groups to create more easily licenced aged and health care facilities, creches, gyms, business centres and wedding and events spaces as well as being able to expand their traditional offerings such as corporate functions, breweries and restaurants?
The thing I’d be asking your local MP or opposition candidate is: How many clubs have closed in the electorate over the past three years? How many are on the brink? Will any of these policies signal their end? And what will the community do without them?
While I don’t know the answer, it’s worth asking the person who will be making the decisions on their fate.