TWO Colac bowling clubs have joined a fight against proposed Federal Government poker machine reforms.
Colac Bowling Club and City Bowling Club have criticised plans to impose mandatory pre-commitment technology on poker machines.
The Federal Government, in alliance with Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, wants to introduce the technology to tackle problem gambling.
Outgoing Colac Bowling Club president Brian Russell said club members would be the losers out of the reforms.
He said the reforms would cut revenue directed to subsidising members’ benefits and charity causes, because the causal gambler would give away the punt.
“Other bowling clubs our size survive without them. But it’s the lifestyle they give you,” he said.
“What I mean in lifestyle is subsidised memberships, advantages to all members regarding their drink prices, and clubs which provide meals do that on a subsidised basis.
“We’re a non-profit club. What profits generated by poker machines go back into the club and the community.”
Mr Russell said he was unsure of the exact financial impact the reforms would have on the club but said they would have “an effect”.
New City manager Steve Cheater was also unsure – “everyone is surmising”.
But Mr Cheater said pre-committing to an amount would not help problem gamblers.
“If they can set their own figure it’s not going to solve any purpose – they could walk in and say my commitment is going to be $1000 every time,” he said.
“But where the venues are concerned, we will lose the average punter that doesn’t come in that often and isn’t prepared to do the paperwork.”
Mr Cheater said the community benefits of poker machine revenue would be the first to go under the reforms.
Member for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman said the argument clubs needed poker machine money to benefit the community failed to stack up.
“They are arguing that it’s okay to take problem gambling money to create subsidies for other members. That’s not a good argument,” he said.
“They need to change and adapt. The overwhelming majority of bowls clubs thrive without pokies money.”
Mr Cheeseman said clubs would not lose revenue from casual punters if the legislation came into force, as feared.
“If people genuinely enjoy it and it’s sustainable within their budget, they can get a card and it will be very simple, the process will be very simple,” he said.’
Colac Otway Shire has 110 poker machines at five venues in Colac, which reaped $7.47 million last financial year.
State Government figures show three venues – the bowling clubs and the Colac RSL – contributed $695,000 to community initiatives during that period.
About 40 per cent of money lost on poker machines is by problem gamblers.