The Canberra Southern Cross Club Woden will hand back 10 of its gaming machines and their attached authorizations under the ACT Government’s Surrender Incentive.
Since March, the government has provided $15,000 per gaming machine authorization surrendered or $20,000 per gaming machine surrendered if the licensee surrenders all the authorizations within a venue and surrenders their authorization certificate.
The Southern Cross Club will use the $150,000 for outdoor dining areas at Woden, Tuggeranong, and Jamison in time for summer.
“We are pleased to be able to remove these machines,” Ian Mackay, the club’s CEO, said. “The incentive money will be used to continue to diversify our revenue streams away from gaming. If COVID taught us anything, it’s that being able to offer outdoor dining and entertainment spaces are crucial to a vibrant and healthy food and beverage business.”
A further 20 machines will be placed in long-term storage, so the gaming floor can be refurbished, with more space between machines, improvements to the bar, lounge, and toilets.
“I am pleased by the work that Canberra Southern Cross Club is doing to diversify from poker machines and shift to a safe, sustainable revenue source,” said Shane Rattenbury, ACT Minister for Gaming.
“Canberra’s community clubs play an important role in the social life of many Canberrans, but the exposure and access to electronic gaming machines causes harm in our community.”
Half the Woden gaming floor will remain open throughout the works program, and the club will fully re-open in mid-August.
At this stage, the club has no plans for the machines in storage, Mr Mackay said.
That will leave 216 gaming machines at the Woden club; before COVID, Mr Mackay noted, there were 272 machines – a 21 percent reduction since then.
In its Gaming Statement, the CSCC states it is “committed to providing a strong harm minimization approach to the service of gaming”, and sees the Gambling and Racing Control (Code of Practice) Regulations 2022which governs the club industry, as a minimum standard, and strives to do better.
The club’s other venues have fewer machines: 108 at Jamison and 158 at Tuggeranong. Although there were no immediate plans, Mr Mackay said the venues’ master plans “may lead to positive changes in our gaming, food, and beverage operations” over the next three years.
The Southern Cross Club removed all its gaming machines from the Yacht Club in 2019, and increased function and restaurant space, and set up new gyms. The public response then was good, Mr Mackay said.
“Our Yacht Club venue is predominantly a dining and events destination, so it made good sense to remove the gaming machines from this venue.”
When the 30 gaming machines are removed from Woden, Mr Mackay expects gaming revenue to decrease.
“But we hope the improvement to amenities and spacing in the gaming room as part of this project offsets some of this. We also believe revenue received from the outdoor activations we are using the incentive money for will add revenue in our food and beverage operations.”
Local architects and town planners will design the Woden club’s new outdoor dining spaces. Final concepts are still being considered.
A new outdoor dining precinct, Snapper & Co., is scheduled to open at the Yacht Club in September.
Since the Surrender Incentive scheme was launched in March, the ACT Government has received surrender incentive applications from two licensees to surrender 10 authorizations each, Mr Rattenbury said. The ACT Government is also working with other interested clubs.
“I encourage other clubs to contact the ACT Government, so we can assist them in exploring innovative ways to diversify their revenue streams that support community safety and connection.”
The incentive payments will be available until 31 December unless the fund is exhausted earlier.
During the COVID-19 surrender incentive that was in place to 30 June 2021, clubs surrendered 134 electronic gaming machine authorizations, and received $2.01 million in incentive payments.