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Murray Bridge Club named best gaming venue in South Australia
The club’s win at the 2023 Clubs SA awards has capped its comeback from the River Murray floods. Still, when it comes to pokies, not everyone is a winner.
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The Murray Bridge Club has been recognised among the best in South Australia at Clubs SA’s annual awards.
An award win on Saturday night capped a turbulent two years for the club, which had just completed its biggest refurbishment in half a century when last summer’s floods forced it to close for more than two months.
The club was a finalist in several categories, including best refurbishment – alongside Tailem Bend RSL – as well as club of the year, best dining, best bar environment and outstanding community service.
However, it won in just one category: best gaming venue.
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It was up against 10 other venues for the award, including the Port Adelaide Football Club and four SANFL clubs.
“The Murray Bridge Club is a beautifully renovated venue with a focus on customer comfort and safety,” the award judges said.
“It is fresh, clean and welcoming.
“The breakout space has picturesque views to relax and take a break and their customer service is second to none.
“You are always welcome and provided a memorable gaming experience.”
Manager Shane Barton-Ancliffe said gaming machines were an important part of the club’s business model.
Without them, he said, “we’d be broke”.
In fact, they provided more than half of the club’s revenue, enabling it to offer affordable meals to members and patrons, and grants to local community groups.
He encouraged any local groups which could use a grant of up to $1000 to make a difference in the community to get in touch.
“We try to give back as much as possible,” he said.
Gaming venues are also liable for a special tax on gaming revenue.
Almost 10 per cent of the more than $350 million raised across South Australia each year goes to gambling help services and community causes.
Of course, not everyone is a winner when it comes to pokies.
Benefit gained versus harm caused
Murray Bridge residents and visitors lost $14.2 million to gaming machines in 2022-23, according to Consumer and Business Services.
That’s an average of $633 for every man, woman and child in the district.
To put it another way, each one of Murray Bridge’s 175 poker machines made about $82,000 over the past financial year.
That’s 40 per cent more than the income of the average local household.
There were 121 gaming machines across the Coorong and Tatiara districts in 2022-23, but each pulled in much less revenue – about $30,000 per machine.
Like each of the six other gaming venues in the Murray Bridge district, the club has signage up which warns pokie players to know their limits.
Mr Barton-Ancliffe accepted that not everyone was interested in playing the pokies, but noted that it was a perfectly legal form of entertainment for the grown adults who chose to have a go.
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.
“It’s part of our business.”
Get help with problem gambling: Visit gamblinghelpsa.org.au, call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858, or seek help from Relationships Australia’s outreach service at Murray Bridge Community Centre on Mondays and alternate Tuesdays.