Ballina RSL may pull plug on bowling club
By DAWN COHEN
THE BALLINA RSL Club had to provide more chairs for the crowd arriving in its auditorium on Sunday, but there was no anticipation of an exciting show. More than 400 club mem- bers gathered to hear board chairman Bob Grant and general manager Bill Coulter spell the end of the Ballina RSL Bowling Club in Canal Road. Mr Coulter said the NSW Government poker machine tax was pressuring the ongo- ing tax flow, forcing the or- ganisation to examine its priorities. The club will have to pay between $4.5 and $5 million in additional tax on its gam- bling takings over the next seven years. "The club industry is changing," Mr Coulter said. "Competition is growing. We need to grow to with- stand it. If we don't, the club will go to the wall." In September, 2003, the board employed consultants to advise on future direction. The bowling club was among a number of facilities not covering costs. While the Canal Road club has run its own club- house, catering facilities, bar and poker machines for 17 years, it operates under the auspices of the RSL club. "We predict the bowling club will lose between $80,000 to $100,000 a year," Mr Coulter said. Bowling greens swallow between $40,000 and $50,000 in annual maintenance.
The Canal Street club has three greens, and the bowl- ers are not drinking, eating or gambling enough to cover costs. However, what the consul- tants see as a non-perform- ing asset is a second home for many bowlers, according to the Men's Bowling Club president, Michael Gray. Mr Gray says the bowling club pays its way in the cur- rency of social and health benefits, although not in dol- lars. "It is a big part of a lot of members' lives. People come three or four times a week," he said. However, if the bowling club was not financially sus- tainable it had to go, Mr Coulter said. "There are 350 bowlers, but there are 17,000 RSL club members and 160 em- ployees who will suffer if we go into insolvency." Mr Coulter said many other clubs were starting to feel the pressure. The Ballina RSL CLub board has a strategy for at- tracting younger members, and funds are needed for a costly refurbishment to the River Street building, in keeping with this policy. While the final decision will not be announced for a month, club president Mi- chael Gray believes it is a foregone conclusion. Mr Coulter said the RSL Club was considering run- ning a profitable aged-care facility on the Canal Street site. A second members' in- formation session will be scheduled in about two months.
BOWLED OVER: Ballina RSL Men's Bowling Club president Michael Gray, left, with Ballina RSL Women's Club president Joan Hollingsworth, and Ballina RSL Sandflies president Patrick Kearney. Picture: DOUG EATON