Council policy threatens historic bowls club

March 20, 2024
Clyde Mooney

The historic Kyneton Bowling Club is under threat due to a new draft council policy posing a ban on its much-needed electronic gaming machines. 

The club is located in the Macedon Ranges, where local Council has released a Gambling Harm Prevention Policy for community consultation, with the objective of saving the community from the negative impacts of gambling. 

The new draft policy includes 25 action points, such as council actively discouraging new or additional EGMs, and declining support for activities within venues with gambling. 

Significantly, the new draft policy would prevent any form of gambling at council-owned or managed sites, which directly impacts the Bowling Club, being the only gaming operator on the council’s land. 

According to Maria Weiss, Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s director of community, the policy was developed considering local demographics, financial losses through EGMs in the region, feedback from the community, and “contemporary research” into gambling harms.

Late 1876 the games began at Kyneton Bowling Club, which lays claim to being the oldest bowls club in Victoria to have operated continually on the same site under the same name, having grown as a community sporting and social resource since its inception.

In 1995 it introduced 25 gaming machines, “greatly to assist flagging finances”.

Its fate was turned around, and profits have been reinvested into the community through sponsorships, and a grand, two-storey clubhouse extension, requiring “substantial” debt, which opened in 2008.

Since 2017 a ministerial order has capped the number of EGMs in the Macedon Ranges Shire at just 355, in a population of more than 51k residents.

There are only three gaming venues in the Shire, also including Kyneton RSL and the Victorian Tavern in Gisborne, and between them they hold just 103 machines, or 29 per cent of the permitted total.

In the 2023 financial year these 103 machines took in slightly over $9 million, numbers which when compared to other LGAs across the state, even MSRC concedes “are not considered extreme” – but the policy still suggests this amount “appears to be too high for the community to sustain”. 

Council has informed the Club of its new policy, and encouraged it to submit feedback, offering that should the draft policy be endorsed it will work with them closely on a “viable exit strategy” for the EGMs and their loss of revenue, as dictated. 

The no-gaming policy will be outlined when the club’s lease is due for renewal, in May 2027. 

Kyneton Bowling Club has declined to comment on the matter. 

Meanwhile, around 30 kilometres south-east of Kyneton, the Romsey Football Netball Club applied to MSRC for a $10 million pub renovation and extension to the shuttered Romsey Hotel, including installing 50 gaming machines.

MRSC already fought a previous application for machines on the same site in 2017, finally beating the applicant in the Supreme Court. The pub has been closed since. 

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission is now accepting submissions on the Club’s proposal, with a hearing date yet to be announced. 

People wishing to submit feedback on the Council’s draft Gambling Harm Prevention Policy can do so until 31 March at YourSay.msrc.vig.gov.au.


Tags

gaming policy, Kyneton Bowling Club, Macedon Ranges Shire Council


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  1. This "policy" looks to be an almost exact replica of the one which Bendigo council floated a few years back. If implemented it will be devastating to local clubs and to the wider community as sponsorship by venues will be forbidden where sporting clubs and community groups ever wish to gain council support for any upgrade's, sponsorship etc.
    The loss of employment, not only directly at venues, but throughout the supply chain will be enormous, with ripples affecting areas far flung from any gambling.

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