Clubs hard hit by pokie reform

JUST when you thought the 'chook raffle' was a thing of the past, think again.

Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie's push for poker machine reforms could see some local sporting groups struggle financially.

Several sporting clubs in the Clarence rely heavily on clubs to provide sponsorship and lessen the burden on raising funds to buy essential items such as equipment. The cost of running a sporting team has increased dramatically in recent years and it's become a 'hard slog' for sporting clubs to find the cash to maintain viability For instance, the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC) supports a wide range of causes, including sporting teams and local charities.

The GDSC has subsidised many sports over the years, including bowls, golf, swimming, hockey, tennis, surf life saving, cricket and rugby league.

And one person who knows all too well how difficult it is to survive and prosper as a sporting club in the current climate is Easts' cricket president Bret Loveday.

Easts Cricket Club has entered four senior sides and four junior teams in the local competition this season and, according to their president, the GDSC keeps them afloat.

"Put simply, if we didn't receive money and assistance from the GDSC we'd be shot," Loveday told the Examiner on Monday.

"We've fielded eight teams this year, including four junior sides, and the GDSC is vital to us surviving."

Loveday added the cost of equipment has skyrocketed in recent years and with eight teams to cater for, providing up-to-date equipment stretches the budget.

"Last season it cost us about $2800 alone just for cricket balls," he said.

"Put on top of that the gear, umpire's fees, curator's fees, playing shirts for everyone and all of a sudden costs to run our club begin to mount.

"Times have changed. You just can't run a sporting body on raffles alone, you need support."

GDSC general manager Arthur Lysaught revealed sporting teams throughout the Clarence would suffer if poker machine reforms are introduced.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there at the moment but to convert our poker machines to low-intensity would cost the club $2.2 million to get 30-40 percent less revenue," Lysaught said.

"The club simply couldn't survive as we know it irrespective of what Mr Wilkie might say.

"Pensioners will be hit hard. Instead of paying five dollars to play golf or bowls they could be looking at 12 to 15 dollars."

Mr Lysaught confirmed it also cost the club close to $95,000 to operate the Westlawn Public Golf Course and over $212,000 to sponsor ladies and men's bowls.

"It costs the GDSC $94,500, after income, to maintain and operate the Westlawn Public Golf Course," Lysaught revealed.

"Our sponsorship for bowls at the club is $212,000 and we outlay $40,000 to subsidise various sporting bodies."

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