Grab a beer, order a seafood dinner, have a bowl, catch a live show and play the pokies. There’s a lot to do at Sandhill Sports Club (formerly Bargara Bowls Club). If an application to expand the site delivered to the local council is approved, there will be a lot more to do in the near future. And while the majority of the neighborhood is on board with the plans to expand the facility of add new poker machines, not everyone is happy about it.
Located at the intersection of Whalley St. and Tanner St. in Bargara, the owner of Sandhill Sports Club has great plans for the future of his club. An application to nearly double the size of the facility from 743 to 1405 square meters has been logged by the Bundaberg Regional Council.
Furthermore, the club has already received approval from the Office for Liquor and Gaming Regulation to increase the number of available pokies from 26 to 80.
The general consensus on the matter throughout the neighborhood is one of approbation. The majority of residents have responded affably to the intended renovations, and if not affably, at least logically.
On resident, Jackie Quinlan, lives right across from the Sandhill Sports Club, and she sees nothing wrong with the plan. Taking a realistic stance, she said change and progress are to be expected, and that people shouldn’t try to impede the inevitable.
“I don’t think anything like this will spoil Bargara,” said Ms. Quinlan, “if anything it will enhance it. The road is busy as it is and I don’t believe it will get worse if they expand.”
Noel Ahern, who lives two blocks away on nearby Croft St., is also pleased by the expansion and new poker machine additions. Ahern feels that the club gained more appeal when RSL purchased Bargara Bowls Club in January 2015, rebranding it as the current Sandhill Sports Club. “I was an original member 25 years ago,” he said. “I play there once a week and I believe it will be good for tourism.”
Shane Booth, resident and town planner, shared a different opinion. He believes the expansion “will decrease home values and negatively affect the amenity and character of what is predominantly a low residential area.” He went on to say that RSL is “no longer interested in being a bowls club instead opting to become a gambling business,” designed simply to house more pokies and “pray on those already susceptible to the addiction of gambling,” said Mr. Booth.
“In fact,” he added, “the club has begun buying adjoining properties indicating that these extensions are only the beginning.”
Anne Brown, who lives just behind the club, agree with most of Booth’s points. While she supports the expansion on the surface, she is concerned that the view from her backyard is about to become that of a car park, which she says “will devalue our unit”.
Mr. Booth had other issues with the plan. He says the intersection is already unsafe, and will only get worse, noting a cyclist who was killed earlier this year in a crash in front of the pokies club. He also berated the RSL for having “no regard for noise attenuation”, stating that it will only get worse when the expansion project leads to later business hours.
Col Rankin, Manager of RSL, said that the club’s license application for adding 54 new pokies was already approved, and that no complaints were logged with the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation during the application’s review process. “No concerns were raised,” said Mr. Rankin, “so there are no concerns.”