With amalgamation plans between the Bangalow Bowlo and large entertainment corporation, Norths Collective, still under discussion, residents have voiced concerns over losing a valued community freehold, control of the club and the potential for the new owners installing more pokie machines to raise revenue.
Yet according to the club’s Vice President, Atosha Clancy, ‘Gaming will be limited by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and we are currently negotiating a maximum number of machines, a maximum floor space and the position of the gaming room, away [from] public view.
‘Bangalow Bowlo, like every other bowling club on the far north coast, has gaming. We will limit gaming through the MOU’.
Yet Byron Councillor, Asren Pugh (Labor), is not in favour, and confirmed with The Echo his social media post on July 12:
He wrote, ‘Firstly, I want to say that I think the current board have been very open in this process and given lots of opportunities for member engagement’.
‘I truly believe that those involved have the best interests of the community at heart, and I recognise that there are serious and significant challenges for the Bowlo’.
He says there is a ‘clear reliance on a big increase in poker machine revenue’.
‘Throughout the FAQs and proposal is a goal of getting to 15 per cent of revenue coming from poker machines.
‘With current revenue, this means somewhere between $350k and $400k from pokies every year. With the stated aim of getting to over $6 million in yearly revenue, 15 per cent would mean somewhere over $900k. Norths is a massive gambling operation, which I believe we should not be a part of.
‘I visited Seagulls at Tweed, where they have nearly 200 poker machines – it is a lifeless and dreary place. Poker machines do serious damage to our community and I don’t think we should have any more of them in Bangalow’.
Cr Pugh also feared the club being ‘subsumed into a massive organisation like Norths means we will not be able to control our club’.
‘The zoning of the land means that after 10 years, Norths could do what they like, including being sold to build aged or disability accommodation on it. “Trust us” is not enough for me’.
‘I look forward to being able to have a good look at the proposed MOU, but at the moment, the negatives far outweigh the positives for me’.
Cr Pugh later told The Echo that Seagulls, located in Tweed Heads, was another Norths Collective venue.
Yet Club Vice President Clancy maintains that ‘both Norths Collective and the Bangalow Bowling and Sports Club have the same structure: they are wholly owned by their members and are not-for-profit organisations’.
‘There are no “shareholders” who receive profit. If the proposed amalgamation goes ahead, Bangalow members will (if they so choose) become members of Norths Collective. The Bangalow Bowlo would therefore be owned by all members of Norths Collective.
‘The MOU ensures that a local advisory committee will be set up to advise the amalgamated club on Bangalow issues for ten years.
‘We expect to have a draft MOU ready to provide to our members very soon. Once finalised, the MOU will be voted on by the Board of both clubs, before going to the membership for a vote, hopefully late August or in September.
‘The financial situation has deteriorated since we were advised by the accountant in January to seek other options. The Bangalow Bowlo now sits on the edge’.
‘One concern of the Board, members and community is “what happens in ten years when the MOU expires”?’
‘Growing capital has been challenging and the capital reserves that had built up were decimated by the pandemic.
‘Personally, I can’t see how the club will exist in another ten years without a massive ($3M–$5M) injection of capital.
‘Norths Collective bring capital, decades of experience in the club industry, job security, and a history of four successful amalgamations over more than three decades. The Greens, at North Sydney, a small old bowling club not unlike Bangalow, is still going strong after 31 years. What I hear from the community is that no one wants to lose the Bowlo; neither do the any of the Board, which is why we are investigating a pathway to give the club a secure future, with local jobs and career paths, and sponsorship for junior and adult sports, for decades to come’.
For more information visit www.bangalowbowlo.com.au/future.