13 Nov

Fate of Victoria’s Mount Beauty Country Club and its Poker Machines looking Bleak

The future of the Mount Beauty Country Club is looking more and more bleak with each passing week. The popular destination has been inactive since July, and if a prospective buyer isn’t found soon, the bowling club and its 19 poker machines—the only pokies found in the town of Mt Beauty—may be shut down for good.

Moun Beauty Bowling Club faces Permanent ClosureChris Chamberlain, administrator for the Mt Beauty Country Club, located in the picturesque Kiewa Valley of Alpine Shire, Victoria, said the property’s future has been complicated by an $800,000 debt. Creditors have come knocking, but the club hasn’t been generating nearly enough revenue to keep up with payments, which Mr. Chamberlain attributes mostly to duties owed to the Victorian Government relating to its 19 poker machines.

“It’s not looking rosy as we speak,” said Mr. Chamberlain. When asked what he thought the chances were of Mt Beauty County Club ever reopening, he said “it’s highly unlikely at this stage.”

Mr. Chamberlain believes the largest problem facing the popular bowling club is the exorbitant number of pokies currently available all throughout Victoria. Having 19 poker machines on the premises wasn’t doing much to bring in customers, but paying for their allocation was greatly hurting the establishment’s bottom line.

“They’re not worth a great deal,” he said. “You would be lucky to get $2000 a licence.”

He resolved that “time has moved on”, noting “one of the big imposts was that the number of pokies didn’t make it a sustainable and viable operation.”

The club’s administrator has been trying to find a prospective buyer for the country club, which lists approximately 700 members who previously enjoyed the facility’s lawn bowling, bar and bistro. So far, despite a few inquiries, he’s had no luck securing a new operator.

Mr. Chamberlain did say that he was considering holding an auction in hopes of keeping the Mount Beauty Country Club from shutting its doors for good. However, he also said, “I would be pushing to try to have it wrapped up by the end of the year.”

Ever since the site’s closure in July, the rink has been off limits for pennant games. Bob Joyner, the club’s secretary, said that 32 members were still visiting the location twice a week to practice on the rink, and that those bowlers were concerned about the fate of their local club.

Mr. Joyner confirmed that at least two of the club’s members had already made the conversion to the Towanga Bowls Club, located 30km to the west in Bright, VIC. While those members seem to have given up hope, Mr. Joyner has not, remaining optimistic that a buyer will be found.

Perhaps in hopes of piquing more interest, he noted that one of the club’s sheds contains $30,000 worth of maintenance machinery and equipment for the lawn bowling rink.

Peter Roper of the Alpine Shire Council found it rather interesting that the bowling club was the focal point of concern for residents of Mount Beauty, and not the fact that the country club’s closure would mean no more access to poker machines anywhere in the town.