NEWCASTLE’S Wests Group has a proven track record of anticipating and satisfying the club market in the Hunter.
From its flagship New Lambton club it has branched out with mergers, investments and acquisitions and now also operates the former Club Phoenix at Mayfield and Nelson Bay Diggers. It operates two successful motels, is a vital supporter of Hunter charities and sports and is a major regional employer.
It can only be good news that the group looks set to acquire the former Cardiff Workers Club from the Panthers group, especially since it seems willing to make the investment necessary to bring that club back to the top of its game.
Given the strong possibility that the northern railway line may soon be bridged, making a new link between Cardiff and Argenton or Glendale, the chances of major trading improvements seem good.
The acquisition is subject to approval from a variety of sources, but it would seem – on face value at least – to offer advantages all around.
It is interesting to contemplate the Wests phenomenon and the club industry in general against the background of this week’s progress towards enactment of federal poker machine laws.
The laws will require so-called ‘‘pre-commitment’’ technology on every new poker machine manufactured from the start of 2013, but gamblers will be able to choose whether or not to use it.
While far weaker than the legislative package originally promised by the government – before it reneged on its deal with independent MP Andrew Wilkie – the new laws do at least set a precedent for federal involvement in what had been a state area.
Any organisation with a major stake in the gaming industry should act on the assumption that, sooner or later, social pressure will drive further tightening of the laws.
Such a tightening may well occur when, and if, damage to the community from problem gambling is seen to outweigh the tax revenue and other benefits.
With that in mind, prudent club boards should already be planning for this likelihood by diversifying their activities and revenue sources to ensure the services they offer their members aren’t too dependent on gambling income.
NIB’s growth path
WHILE many Hunter people remain nostalgic for the days when locally-based health insurer NIB was a not-for-profit fund, they should nevertheless be pleased to see the organisation growing in stature as a sharemarket-listed corporation.
NIB’s recently announced foray into New Zealand, with the $80million purchase of Tower Medical Insurance, produced an immediate jump in the share price.
That’s a reflection of the market’s positive perception of NIB and its ability to enhance the value of its new purchase.
NIB has been searching for growth avenues for some time, and it is pleasing to see this important Hunter organisation going from strength to strength in otherwise challenging economic times.