The battle for the future of Stafford Bowls Club has taken a massive twist with Australian music royalty joining residents in their fight with Brisbane City Council to stop the community hub being turned into a pokies venue.
The Whitlams lead singer and long-time gambling critic Tim Freedman, posted a video urging Council not to allow 76 pokies to operate at the venue under a new leasing agreement with Brisbane Racing Club.
“Those of us passionate about healthy communities are upset to hear that Stafford Bowls Club could become a pokies venue,” Freedman, famous for singing iconic tune Blow Up The Pokies, said.
The Whitlams/ Source: Brisbane Festival
“Now the tide is turning against pokies all around the country and it’s hard to believe that Brisbane Council have awarded this lease without proper process.”
“Let’s hope that they listen to the community,” he urged.
Locals have launched an online petition calling on Brisbane City Council to return the venue to a community hub and terminate the new lease given to Brisbane Racing Club after Crushers Leagues Club, which was given a 20 year lease in 2019, indicated it could not continue with its redevelopment plans.
Local resident and petition organiser Joe Woolley said Brisbane City Council had allowed the club to fall into disrepair because it failed to hold Crushers to the terms of their lease and ensure facilities were kept in good repair while waiting for a liquor and poker machine licence to be approved.
He said Brisbane City Council’s own process was to offer facilities like Stafford Bowls Club to community groups and to open that process up for public comment and consultation.
But he said Brisbane City Council failed to do that.
“They just decided to give it to the Brisbane Racing Club who have no connection to the community at all without looking at all the potential alternatives that might come to light if the community had been asked.”
“I also think that a major part of the community’s opposition to this is that residents know pokies are harmful to people, especially those with gambling problems.”
“Residents are saying to Council is this the best you can do for us? Dumping more pokies into the community.”
“It’s believed an average pokie machine takes $90,000 a year in revenue so that’s $6 or $7m going to be sucked out of the local community.”
“And in return Council is getting $200k a year in return for those facilities? The numbers just don’t add up.”
Labor Leader in Brisbane City Council Jared Cassidy congratulated the Stafford community for taking the fight to Brisbane City Council.
“Adrian Schrinner and his LNP team just thought they could simply bully the local community into accepting this deal but I think they have bitten off more than they can chew,” Cr Cassidy said.
“The Lord Mayor has a full-blown revolt on his hands.”
“I have said before that Labor has a problem with how the lease was awarded to Brisbane Racing Club.”
“Because they’re clearly going to be reaping an amazing commercial benefit from this site if they’re going to be investing $7.5m and giving $200,000 back to the community. You can just imagine the profit margins that are going to be operating in this former community club.”
“It’s certainly not open, transparent or accountable, nor is it in the best interests of the local community,” Cr Cassidy said.
Cr Cassidy said there were 150 community groups on Brisbane City Council’s waitlist that were desperate for a place to call home but instead the council had prioritised Brisbane Racing Club.
“If I was the local LNP member I wouldn’t be showing my face around the Stafford Bowls Club. The local community has every right to feel let down.”