Hervey Bay RSL general manager Jason Lynch said the business employed 163 staff and was the city’s second largest employer behind the Fraser Coast Regional Council. He is pictured with Carol Yates from We Care 2.
Hervey Bay RSL general manager Jason Lynch said the business employed 163 staff and was the city’s second largest employer behind the Fraser Coast Regional Council. He is pictured with Carol Yates from We Care 2. Joshuah Buckle

Coast's not-for-profits kick goals in fight for pokie profit

NOT-for-profit sporting and social support organisations own and operate more poker machines in our region than private and corporate businesses combined.

Across the Fraser Coast local government area, 34 venues are permitted to operate 1322 electronic gaming machines.

ARM Newsdesk can reveal that there are 1258 pokies currently installed on the coast but the State Government keeps the actual number of operating machines per venue under wraps.

More than $590 million was lost on the region's pokies from July, 2004 to April 30 this year.

Our research shows 15 community-based not-for-profits are permitted to operate 844 of the coast's pokies.

The remaining 366 machines belong to traditional pubs.

Woolworths can operate three venues with a capacity for 112 machines.

Coles does not own any EGMs on the coast.

Traditional pubs can operate the remaining 366 machines.

With a permit to operate 300 pokies, the Hervey Bay RSL and Services Memorial Club has the city's largest number of electronic gaming machines.

Hervey Bay Boat Club can operate 254 machines across its three sites; and the Maryborough RSL has the third highest number of pokies with a permit for 115 machines.

Hervey Bay RSL general manager Jason Lynch said the business employed 163 staff and was the city's second largest employer behind the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Mr Lynch said the RSL contributed more than $350,000 so far this year to the Fraser Coast community by providing cash, services and support to a range of services and programs, particularly for veterans and their families.

He said the business also contributed to the economic fabric of the city.

"The club injects back into the community through employment of staff over $6 million annually," Mr Lynch said.

"The club, when it last renovated in 2013-14, spent over $6 million with local tradies.

"This was an attempt to keep business local so the whole community benefited from the renovation."

The Hervey Bay RSL returns more than $4 million a year to State Government coffers through a range of taxes and fees.

Clubs Queensland chief executive officer Doug Flockhart said community-operated venues contributed over $2.2 billion to the national economy.

"Further Queensland clubs employ over 22,000 people including over 9000 from regional areas, which has grown in the last four years," Mr Flockhart said.

"Clubs also provide over $850 million in social contributions, whether that be in community donations, subsidised access to facilities and volunteering - this equates to around $770,000 per club."

Maryborough Chamber of Commerce president Lance Stone said he believed the negatives outweighed the economic benefits of poker machines.

"I see firsthand the economic hardship they cause," he said.

"Yes in the sporting world they have helped tremendously in developing sports facilities for our youth but the consequence far outweighs the benefits."

Fraser Coast councillor Paul Truscott agreed, saying the social impact could be heartbreaking when compared to the business positives.

"It is heartbreaking to hear story after story of people who are addicted to the machines and how it has turned bad situations worse," he said.

Woolworths sign
Woolworths and Coles have significant poker machine investments. Contributed

Woolworths makes a trolley load of cash from Fraser Coast hotel investments

WOOLWORTHS is profiting from poker machines in our community.

The supermarket giant owns about 8.5% of the Fraser Coast local government area's electronic gaming machines.
Through its hotel arm, ALH Group, Woolworths derives profits from 45 machines installed in the Bay Central Tavern, the 42 pokies installed in the Kondari Hotel and 25 at the Old Sydney Hotel.

Woolworths Limited is a 75% shareholder in the ALH Group and the other 25% is owned by the Mathieson Group.

ALH has 294 hotels across the nation.

An ALH Group spokesman said Woolworths took responsible gambling seriously and that was why the company had installed pre-commitment technology across all of its gaming venues.

"The pre-commitment functionality assists our customers to gamble responsibly by nominating spend and or time limits on electronic gaming machines," the spokesman said.

"Pre-commitment settings can be set at the hotel or via the internet.

"Voluntary pre-commitment and responsible gambling dynamic messaging will also appear on (the pokies) screen."
Coles does not have gaming investment in our region but it operates 70 machines in two venues in neighbouring Bundaberg.

It owns 30 machines at the Old Bundaberg Tavern and 40 in the Bargara Beach Hotel.

Coles operates these two venues through its Spirit Hotels subsidiary that manages 90 hotels in Queensland, WA, SA and NSW.

A Coles spokeswoman said the business complied with all poker machine regulations.

"Coles actively supports responsible gaming practices and adheres to all Commonwealth, state and local regulation to ensure that we are responsible gaming operators, limiting access to young people and vulnerable members of the community," she said. - ARM NEWSDESK

For 24-hour support call The Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.