The Returned Services League (RSL) is one of the largest providers of poker machines throughout NSW and Victoria. The organization has plans to relocate its Wangaratta club to the Sydney Hotel on Faithful Street. However, now that city council has shown favoritism for that plan, they are demanding their request for 18 new pokies be met.
Artistic Rendering of Wangaratta RSL Sydney Hotel
The RSL put in a request for additional electronic gaming machines (EGMs, or pokies), and at the same time, submitted a proposal to build and move to the new Sydney Hotel. When the Rural City of Wangaratta Council met in May 2017, feelings were mixed on these issues.
The bid for new pokies was denied by a vote of 3-2. However, the proposal to relocate from the current location on Reid Street was entertained by all members of the council, receiving a unanimous (5-0) vote. The RSL is using the difference as leverage to get what it really wants—the new poker machines.
New Pokies Or Nothing!
The current Wangaratta RSL club is only licenced for 32 poker machines, which is what they have in place now. Having been denied approval by the city council, the RSL continued its push for the new pokies by lodging an application with the Victoria Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).
For the time being, it’s a waiting game. The VCGLR said it will review the submission and have an answer for the RSL no later than July 12. Whether the club will receive any new poker machines is now in the hands of the commission, who must decide to grant no new EGMs, all 18 of the requested EGMs, or some number in between.
On Tuesday, a letter was distributed among all member of the RSL. The organization said that if the new pokies are not granted – all 18 of them, bringing the total number of poker machines to 50 – RSL will not generate enough revenue to construct the new Sydney Hotel.
“With only 32 machines we cannot fund the relocation.”
The memo went on to urge all RSL members to write a letter the Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive Officer of the Rural City of Wangaratta Council, encouraging him and the rest of the council to support the relocation to Faithful Street – and subsequently, the addition of new pokies.
Will RSL Follow Through On Threat?
Based on existing evidence, it seems unlikely that the RSL would follow through on its threat not to relocate if the new pokies are ultimately denied. A visit to the Wangaratta RSL Website reveals just how proud and determined the club is to complete the relocation project.
There are multiple photos and a blueprint of the upcoming Sydney Hotel, listed under the tagline “Our Future Home”. The RSL is even inviting patrons to purchase engraved brick pavers for the site, commemorating their loved ones who served in the military with an ‘honour wall’.
“With the impending relocation of the Wangaratta RSL to its new home on the banks of the beautiful Ovens River, we invite you to purchase a paver or brick facing in honour of loved ones who have served or are currently serving in the military,” the website reads.