POKER machines helped put Mulwala and its three licensed clubs on the map, but those in charge of their operation are fearful changes this year could unleash economic carnage.
Mulwala’s three poker machine venues, Club Mulwala, Yarrawonga-Mulwala Golf Club Resort and Mulwala Water Ski Club, will absorb the brunt of the reforms being proposed by federal independent Andrew Wilkie.
An economic assessment released late last year predicts a loss of $33 million and 200-plus job losses in the Corowa Shire.
The minority Gillard government is supporting Mr Wilkie’s push for the implementation of mandatory pre-commitment, which will force players to nominate how much they will bet in a set period of time, to cling onto office.
Mulwala’s three clubs have a combined 478 machines with Club Mulwala having the most with 208.
Losses are based on predictions of a 40 per cent fall in gaming revenue and their flow-on effects to the wider economy.
Anticipated drops in revenue range between 15 and 40 per cent including the prediction some local clubs already facing marginal incomes will close.
Club Mulwala chief executive Michael Mullarvey said 50 per cent of its income is generated from poker machines and feared the impact of the changes being proposed by the Tasmanian independent.
“What Mr Wilkie is talking about will devastate our whole community,” Mr Mullarvey said.
“It would not only take 150 to 200 jobs out of the three clubs, but it will also take another 400 jobs out of the community.
“You are talking about decimating a country town.
“Our business relies on tourists and if the tourists are not coming here we are in serious trouble.”
Yarrawonga-Mulwala Golf Club Resort derives 29 per cent of its income from 120 poker machines and club chief executive Rob Dick said all improvements were on hold due to the uncertainty.
“We could go from a $300,000 to $400,000 profit to a $1 million loss,” he said.
The double whammy for the clubs is having to spend more than a $1 million to make changes that will cut revenue.
“It is scary, but love or hate them, unfortunately these clubs were built around poker machines,” Mr Dick said.
Mulwala and other NSW towns on the Murray boomed on poker machines when they were banned in Victoria.
Club Mulwala got its first machines in 1960 and Mulwala Water Ski Club opened in 1981 and has 150 today.