“The Greens use the spurious argument that these further restrictions will help address problem gambling. I’ve got news for them, they won’t. Problem gamblers bet on anything. They are free to bet online and do,” writes BILL STEFANIAK.
I BELIEVE the citizens of the ACT will rue the day they naively elected six Greens members to the Assembly due to the party’s policies in a number of areas, not the least of which are community clubs.
The ACT is blessed with a still large but now diminished number of community clubs. Many were set up for the purpose of supporting certain sporting teams in our community or ethnic groups or just clubs often catering for a broad clientele.
They have, since the inception of poker machines in 1976, used poker machines to finance their operations and to donate considerable sums of money to local sporting and other community groups and charities. Several clubs, such as the Raiders group of clubs, the Tuggeranong Rugby club group (Vikings) and the Ainslie Aussie rules group have contributed many dollars to their respective codes that would not have been able to operate if those clubs did not exist .
The Raiders Group (and thank God they still own the highly profitable Queanbeyan Leagues Club) has used the profits to fund this great team that has been part of Canberra’s very soul since 1982.
The Vikings Club has funded the local ACT team in the national second-tier competition as well as providing huge support to our successful and much loved Brumbies.
These clubs have all provided quality sporting facilities the community would not otherwise have, for the use and benefit of thousands of Canberrans, young and old.
Others, such as the Southern Cross clubs, have provided support in cash and kind to numerous charities and good causes over the years (the Southern Cross clubs alone support well over 50 disparate groups and the Vikings support more than 50 sporting groups in the Tuggeranong Valley each year).
Ten years ago there were more than 5000 poker machines in ACT clubs. Since government restrictions were introduced in 2015/16 the number has reduced to less than 4000. The bet limits and the type of notes allowed to be put in are already much lower than for clubs across the border in Queanbeyan.
Many of our clubs are struggling (even without covid restrictions). A number have closed in the last four years and, in recent months, the Eastlake Kaleen Sports Club and the Belconnen Way Soccer Club have closed.
The ACT Licensed Clubs Association would have been happy to just be left alone for the next four years but the Green zealots want to further squeeze the lemon. They, in cahoots with their ALP bedfellows, have promised to now further reduce the number of machines to 3500 and further restrict bet limits.
The Greens use the spurious argument that these further restrictions will help address problem gambling. I’ve got news for them, they won’t. Problem gamblers bet on anything. They are free to bet online and do. They are also free to go across the border to Queanbeyan and play the pokies there to their heart’s content, which no doubt many do due to fewer restrictions being in place in NSW.
The number of Canberra citizens joining clubs in Queanbeyan this year has dramatically increased.
Our clubs employ 1700 mainly young Canberrans. They provide subsidised meals, entertainment and convivial meeting places for more than 200,000 Canberrans. They subsidise junior sport.
If they are sent to the wall as a result of this new government policy who will pick up the multi million dollar tab – the ACT government? Unlikely and, really, why should the taxpayer have to pick up the tab when the clubs have been happily contributing to this themselves since 1976 at no cost to the long-suffering ACT taxpayer?
In recent times, the Greens have used as an example of a successful pokie-free club, a club I helped build and served on the committee of – the Polish Club, in Turner.
What they fail to say is that the Polish Club does not have paid staff but relies almost entirely on non-paid, dedicated volunteers. I have been one myself.
Another club without pokies is the Commonwealth Club. Unlike the Polish Club, the staff are paid, but the membership fees are about $2000 a year and the meals and drinks, while very good, are expensive.
The ALP has had a long and usually positive history supporting and benefiting from licensed clubs in this town.
For the sake of battling Canberra families, junior sport, sport and community events in general, not to mention 1700 club workers, it’s time they rethought getting into bed with the Greens on this issue.
I’m sure the Libs would support them and 10 ALP and nine Liberal members beat six Greens any day. If not, we will all be the losers if this madness continues.
Bill Stefaniak is a former Liberal Opposition Leader and a past director of the Royals Rugby Club Weston, the RUC at Barton and the Polish Club.