Sep 27, 2011

Transparency please! Why the tax breaks for pokies clubs?

Has there ever been a more self-serving public campaign than the one being mounted by Clubs Australia? It's time for a closer look at the alleged benefits of clubs to the Australian community.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

Has there ever been a more self-serving public campaign than the one being mounted by Clubs Australia?

Clubs have long justified their gaming activities due to their value to the community. As Clubs Australia’s website says on its home page: “Clubs are not-for-profit community-based organisations whose central activity is to provide infrastructure and services for the community.”

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41 thoughts on “Transparency please! Why the tax breaks for pokies clubs?

  1. SusieQ

    Excellent article about the ‘footy tax’. I love my footy as much as the next person, but Eddie kicked out of bounds on the full with this one. The clubs have become too reliant on the revenue stream from gambling, which is very sad. For all the people able to set a limit, there are many who can’t.
    I hope to see more stories like this.

  2. Dean Moriarty's Ghost

    It’s not just the big clubs like Panthers and Rooty Hill RSL that are self serving in their campaign against pre-commitment.

    As one of a small group of volunteers, I help run a very small bush cricket club serving a community of about 500 people. We struggle at times to field a side, struggle to maintain financial viability and struggle to maintain our ground to a decent standard. For all the obstacles, we achieve these things and love what we do. We would be among the last people to knock back a grant or donation from a Clubs NSW member to help things along.

    So it has been with some incredulity that we’ve followed Clubs Australia’s campaign, noting in particular the claim that their members provide what would be by our standards; rivers of gold to local sporting clubs.

    One of the bigger clubs in our area is the Merimbula RSL Club who helpfully publish their financial statements on their website. They also helpfully provide banners and other links to the Clubs NSW anti pre-commitment campaign.

    According to Merimbula RSL’s 2010 financial statement, the club’s revenue was $10.1 million. Of this, a tad over $5 million was revenue from pokies. Of this, $2.45 million was pre-tax profit. And what does the financial statement say they gave to the local community by way of grants and donations which are so reliant on pokie revenues? Nothing!

  3. Peter Ormonde

    Nice piece Ben.

    The clubs in NSW feed a legion of seriously overpaid executives – not all of them – but the huge operations. And feed a lot more besides given the murky depths from which poker machines originate. Few of these blokes would ever get a position in the real world but rely on parish pump politics and their mates to stay in their lucrative sinecures. And they know it.
    But they also can claim to have a huge political clout and the challenge will be a major one for the sweaty-palmers in the Government.
    It is a pity that the proposed remedy is so complex and ponderous. A nice simple reduction in the number and availability of pokies with time limits for sessions to one hour a night might have done much of the job I suspect.
    They still would have howled of course – they always would – but it would be a simple remedy for a problem that everyone recognises in their communities.
    The Government needs some hard-hitting personal story ads to counter this self-interested campaign. And quickly.

  4. mg57

    I am heartily sick of the unsubstantiated claims that these big clubs “give back to the community”. Rubbish! I’ve been involved in two local sporting clubs in my area for 15 years, one a soccer club and the other a baseball club, and for years we sought assistance from a couple of local clubs. There were major strings attached and the best they would do was around $500 per year if we promoted them to our members and jumped through a number of other hoops.
    While I’m sure there’s some level of support out there (usually required by their charter and NFP status), as the article points out, this is a minuscule proportion of what these clubs earn from gambling. It’s about time that mainstream journos out there started asking the hard questions of these guys who are screaming about attempts to put a lid on the scourge of gambling that they promote.

  5. SusieQ

    More hardhitting stories and, as Peter Ormonde has said, some stories about those who have suffered with pokies addictions would be helpful (could I be extra cynical and say how about someone who lost all their money at one of the more prominent clubs).

  6. oggy

    To profit from the abject misery of the partners and children of the ‘problem’ gamblers is abominable,if this is what it takes for these Clubs to survive then I would rather they disappear.The total cost to the community of disintegrating families,social welfare commitments,medical interventions, antisocial/criminal acts all need to be factored in to the overall equation on the net negative impact to our community , of this particular gambling mode so the debate is rational. Maybe the Media can get of their fat and supply some meaningful figures to this issue,Crikey excepted of course as this article attempts to do.

  7. Mark Lucas

    As president of inner-western Sydney’s favourite pokie-free bowlo, Petersham Bowling Club, I can report that we’re painfully aware of the politics of this. As a true community club we are run by a board of volunteers who give their time freely & with enthusiasm. We are dedicated to preserving the open space & community amenity (the community took over in the first place in order to oust developers), & in 5 years or so, have turned an ailing club into a thriving community asset. We have a strong commitment to reducing our environmental footprint & we are also engaged in cementing our relationships with local sporting clubs based not on gambling income, but on shared enthusiasm & maintaining free access to the open space & other club facilities.

    That said- as little as a year or so ago when things were still looking very tough indeed, we soon found out where we stood in the eyes of the “peak industry body” & the traditional club world. We were having difficulty making ends meet but, despite being a small, well managed & largely self-sufficient club & carrying minimal debt, – it was made pretty clear to us that should we attempt to seek help from other local clubs we would be promptly swallowed up &, in time, redeveloped in order to improve their amenities. There was certainly no money available in the kitty to help support a genuine community asset.

    I’m therefore pleased to advise that we are, for the first time since we became pokie-free, quietly in the black at the end of the traditionally challenging winter months (largely on the back of an increasingly successful live music program). There’s still a tough road ahead but we don’t need to bleed the community to survive & we can give without taking. Time for a new business model folks- it can be done.

  8. Mike M

    Not every club with pokies is a Taj Mahal…..there are lots that are very small and for which essentially all of their pokie money goes straight back into it’s sports teams. Please don’t confuse the big clubs with their hundreds of machines with the local footy, sailing, bowls clubs etc with just a handful…they are the ones that nobody is giving any thought to and which are least able to pay for the costs of the proposed changes. Their loss will be felt the most.

  9. Daniel

    Not every drug dealer is Tony Montana, either.

  10. shepherdmarilyn

    It sure is self serving, the clubs brazenly state they love ripping off the punters.

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