Rooty Hill RSL has long sourced the majority of its revenue from its gaming floor. Now those profits are being reinvested into building the biggest performing arts centre in Western Sydney.
The project, due to open in late 2019 at a cost of $100 million, is entirely self-funded by the club. Located on a car park site across the road from the Rooty Hill RSL site, the Western Sydney Performing Arts Centre will include a 2000-seat proscenium-arch theatre, which has been described as the west’s answer to the Opera House.
"Our objective was to provide something equal to the Sydney Opera House or the Lyric Theatre or the Capitol Theatre, so we can attract the same kind of shows they do,” says Rooty Hill RSL chief executive Richard Errington. "It's been designed to host stage shows, large musicals, ballet, the symphony orchestra. Anything the major theatres can provide, we can now also accommodate.”
Rooty Hill RSL club has 726 poker machines. In 2016 gaming contributed 63 per cent of the club’s $89.1 million revenue. Two thirds of the $100 million theatre costs are coming from this gaming revenue.
Rooty Hill is in the top-ten highest earning NSW clubs for gaming profits, but Errington says the club has decreased its reliance on gaming income in recent years. 2016 brought in $33 million from non-gaming sources – the highest of any NSW club.
NSW Greens MLC Justin Field says poker machines are harmful to people, families and communities, and that it is the Government’s responsibility to put people before pokies profits.
“The $252.97 million lost to addictive pokies in the top 25 hotels is no accident, these machines are designed for addiction and making profits from people and communities,” says Field. "The vested interests in the hotel industry continue to wind back regulations on gambling. It's long past time government reined them in and put people before pokies profits."
A 2010 Productivity Commission report revealed the social cost of poker machines, and that 40 per cent of the losses on poker machines in Australia were attributable to problem gamblers.
Errington says the club’s reliance on gaming as a major source of revenue will drop to 50 per cent by the end of the theatre’s first year of trading, and that the project is “built by the community, for the community.”