Long-standing Gladstone club reveals $40K debt at crisis meeting
OUT of options, an iconic Gladstone club has asked its members to contribute to a trust fund in a bid to keep it from becoming insolvent.
At 10am today, about 100 people gathered at the Gladstone RSL Bowls and Citizens Club to come up with a solution to the club's struggling financial situation.
Club secretary Terry Boyd said an exodus of elderly people leaving the region in the past two years to retire elsewhere left the club in 'dire straits'.
Mr Boyd said the club had since fallen into a debt of more than $40,000.
The crisis meeting, which welcomed a number of community members; club volunteers and members, local politicians and representatives was aimed at pinpointing ways to keep the 76-year-old club from folding.
To kick things off, Mr Boyd put forward his own proposal: to set up a trust fund or 'unsecured loan' that would see current members contribute financially to chipping away at the debt.
He said as the club's trade began to pick up in a few years time, those members would be paid back.
However, a number of community members questioned how the club would continue to make a profit, even if the debt was repaid, given it hadn't successfully made a profit for the past two years.
Mr Boyd said the club would have to look at replacing paid staff with volunteers, and was hoping to revamp the set of six pokie machines in a bid to draw in more patrons.
He said the current set were outdated and needed modernising.
"We have tried for a very long time to draw in a profit from fundraising, events, competitions ... but it's just not working for us,” he said.
"We need to look at new ways of bringing people back into the club. The pokie machines have brought us profit in the past.
However, a number of residents took issue with the idea of updating the pokie machines, saying it was 'money the club didn't have to spend.'
Returned Service League member Peter Young stood up and asked the club how much money they would save a year, if they gave up their gaming licence and got rid of the pokie machines all together.
Mr Boyd said the club would save up to or more than $20,000 annually, if they got rid of the machines.
Club treasurer Tony Wyper said he saw the logic in getting rid of the pokie machines in the short term to reduce debt however, once they were gone that was it.
"A dollar is a dollar, wherever it's coming from,” he said.
"Once we are out of debt, if we get those machines upgraded, they will help turn a profit in the long run.
"The debt is the real urgency here, and we need a solution, such as the trust account, to address it immediately.
"If we get rid of the pokie machines and the gaming licence... they are gone forever and we lose that margin for profit.”
A number of residents and members pitched in with ideas, such as reducing membership fees, modernising and upgrading the club, reducing drink prices and more.
However, when member for parliament Glenn Butcher stood up and offered a short-term solution, the crowd went quiet.
Mr Butcher suggest the idea of putting together a charity ball for the club.
He said with all three levels of government combined and help from local business and industry, he was sure that such an event could be held within the next three months.
He said the aim of the ball would be to solely raise money for the club, and estimated it could raise up to $100,000.
The idea was met with a round of applause from the crowd, however, it was made clear that solid changed needed to be put in place to ensure the club wouldn;t fall back into debt.
At the end of the meeting, a show of hands revealed that if a trust account was to be set up, majority of the members would contribute financially.
Club event coordinator Sue Wilson said after the meeting, eight members came forward and decided to contribute about $17,500 between them to help the club.
Mrs Wilson said the members who did so wished to remain anonymous, and said that, combined with the ball would put the club back in a good standing.
"But we still need regular patronage ... we did get a lot more people motivated and all in all it was a good result.”
The Observer is awaiting response as to the club's next move.