THE Kyabram Club will ask its 3500 members to “vote prudently” when they reach the ballot box on November 24, as part of a historical move by Community Clubs Victoria to mobilise its membership base during the Victorian election campaign.
One hundred and sixty three clubs that operate electronic gaming machines (EGMs), including the Kyabram Club, have voted unanimously to support a CCV recommendation that clubs should provide advice to their members about the policies of the contending political parties at the state election.
CCV president Leon Wiegard said this initiative, a first in the organisation’s 102-year history, has been prompted by the fact that the gaming industry is under increasing pressure and that if further changes are introduced to stifle gaming then the future of clubs with gaming was questionable.
Kyabram Club manager Greg Ryan said the club will communicate with members through its social media and mailing lists, as well as talking to its 35 employees and thousands of customers.
But Mr Ryan stressed he would not be telling members how to vote and was instead aiming to ensure their vote was an “informed one”.
He said he was concerned about the “highly emotive” information being published by anti-gaming groups such as the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
“We want to inform our members of the vital role clubs play in the community and the dire consequences should gaming be abolished,” he said.
“The catch cry for this campaign is ‘Clubs are the Community’, and we are simply going to remind our members and guests of this important fact.
“We also want to emphasise that, being a not-for-profit club, all of our income is returned either in taxes, rates or back to our community through improved facilities, donations and employment.
“We bring excitement and fun through the total offer in hospitality, functions, entertainment and organised activities.
“The Kyabram Club to a great extent is the meeting place of our great town. It is the social hub for so many of the people who live in and around the town.”
Mr Ryan said problem gambling levels have been reduced to less than 1 per cent of the population and while the Kyabram Club could theoretically exist without EGMs, the club’s offer to members would be very different.
“Employment would reduce significantly, hours of trade would reduce and all the clubs, charities and institutions we currently support would have to find new ways of raising funds,” he said.
“Our offer as it is today would cease to exist – unless of course the locals of Kyabram were happy to pay a significant increase in membership fees.
“But there’s then a real risk the club might become exclusive to only those who can afford the premium, and we’ll no longer be a club for all of Kyabram.”