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Byron Shire
June 24, 2024

Turning off the TAB

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I address this letter openly towards the members of the Bangalow Bowls and Sports Club Rescue Committee, its board, current and future members and guests.

Firstly I would like to say that I am not alone in feeling pride in a small community for rallying together to save the club from foreclosure. The voluntary receivership the club entered into recently was apparently the necessary evil it needed to raise awareness of the severity of the situation, and while I can only speak for myself, I know that I am only one of many who would have felt the loss of this community asset and recreational club.

However, it has now become obvious that this Rescue Committee, whom we hold in great esteem and have much gratitude towards, has made the decision, amongst many otherwise positive changes, to remove the TAB facilities, based on the premise that a cash-strapped club is better off without the 15K fees it costs to host the facility.

I put it to them that this is a vastly erroneous and foolish decision, especially after having witnessed one long-time member vehemently attempting to (informally) express his and other community members’ opinions in opposition to this decision, with convener of the Rescue Committee Brian Mackney refuting any discussion and insisting the decision has been made.

My questions are: Who made the decision and on what basis could they conclude that the 15K annual cost is not being met by the members of the punters’ club and other regular punters who patronise the club purely on the basis that is has/had excellent TAB facilities? Are any of the members of the Rescue Committee long-term and regular patrons of the club in the past years with a recognised understanding of who the regular patrons are and what they use the club for?

I recognise and appreciate the efforts this committee is making so far, and it has always seemed obvious to me the poker machine room was poorly situated, giving a bad energy to an otherwise large and mostly unused space. Sadly the snooker table had to go, and I believe that moving the gaming machines to part of that space is an excellent idea. However, it leaves a very suitable and accessible portion of that room available for the current TAB facility, and I would seriously suggest that to turn away a good proportion of the current clientele in favour of attracting a yet-to-be-proven so-called family-oriented clientele, could be a huge and costly mistake.

Personally, I mostly use the club because of the fact I enjoy the traditional game of lawn bowls, but when I lived in Bangalow I would often frequent the restaurant, have a beer of an evening while waiting for children to finish soccer training, or just drop by to meet and greet a variety of friends and acquaintances. I can vouch for a fact that, on the Saturday afternoons where the weather prevented the bowls from taking place, the TAB was virtually the only source of social activity and obvious bar revenue occurring, and to willingly hand over the cashed-up patrons to the only other facility in town comes across as sheer stupidity and lack of local knowledge.

In fact, it comes across as embarrassing and shameful that a committee can make such decisions without putting it to a vote of members, without full consultation with an experienced board, and without a detailed assessment of who is currently patronising the club and why. I would suggest that keeping the current members who spend time and money there would be the first priority, while exploring other options to attract potential patrons which are yet to be proven as worthwhile.

Do they seriously expect that so-called families have the spare cash to patronise a club on a daily or weekly basis that will replace regulars who are really the foundation of a club which would have long ago ceased trading otherwise? Are they willing to listen to and negotiate with regular members, or are their pie-in-the-sky great ideas based on a fantasy which doesn’t exist in the real world?

Limited trading hours will attract only limited patronage, limited capable staff, and while I strongly wish for a positive outcome, I can only seriously suggest that shunning a large proportion of paying customers, so early on in the resurrection, will prove to be disastrous and a huge loss to the community and investors will follow. Please reconsider.

Ross Thatcher (member), Clunes

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