Tue, May 14, 2:30pm by Staff Writer
The Parramatta Eels are looking to cash in on their new stadium in Sydney’s west, with plans to build a hotel and function centre near the site of Bankwest Stadium.
The club is proposing to move its Parramatta League’s Club build nearest the stadium to help diversify its income away from poker machines and provide reliable revenue to help support the NRL team.
Venues New South Wales runs the government-owned Bankwest Stadium and is wary of the extra traffic that would be generated by the hotel and the competition from new function centres.
The proposed hotel, near to Parramatta Park, is also opposed by the Heritage Council of NSW, in part because of the way it might visually dominate an area with significant heritage sites, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Parramatta Park Trust did not provide a comment on the proposal.
The $140-odd million hotel project is being assessed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment as a “state significant infrastructure.”
Venues NSW outlined its concern in a submission to the department.
Venues NSW said it expected to host more than 43 events at the adjacent Bankwest Stadium every year, as well as at least three function or conference events at the stadium each week.
It said all road access into the area should be preserved for the stadium.
It also recommended that Parramatta Leagues not duplicate function centre space in its 200-odd room hotel development.
“The introduction of a competitor in such close vicinity to the stadium may impact on that business and will therefore affect the ongoing financial viability of the stadium and the return on investment to the NSW government,” Paul Doorn, the chief executive at Venues NSW wrote.
The chief executive of Parramatta Leagues Club Bevan Paul said, “I’m a little bemused as to why any government agency would be hindering clubs trying to diversity away from gambling revenue, especially in this case where we are building an asset that is only going to help their investment in the stadium.”
Mr Paul said the development would also help the club financially support the Eels.
“We must diversity. Gambling is a good stream of revenue however at the moment without gambling an Eels team wouldn’t be running out.”
In its submission, the Heritage Council said the height and the sale of the proposal would significantly alter the character and skyline of the heritage precinct.
The Heritage Council said the high-rise tower should be limited to the same height as the new stadium.
Looks like we can count on competition between State Government run @BankwestStadium v Eels proposed hotel and lost gambling revenue to save destruction of Parramatta Park vistas. @ParraPark @ClrDonnaDavis
— Suzette Meade ☘️ (@queenmcmeade) May 13, 2019
Parramatta Council also raised concerns about the scale of the hotel, which would sit near the $300 million Bankwest Stadium, which opened last month.
A spokeswoman for Venues NSW said the organisations’ comments related to ensuring there was collaboration on managing “the potential increase in the number of events in the area.”
“Venues NSW will be meeting with Parramatta Leagues Club in the coming weeks to discuss this proposal further,” the spokeswoman said.
The Eels are hoping to follow the lead of other rugby league clubs and sports teams in Australia in its bid to move away from poker machine revenue.
The Melbourne Storm announced in February that it plans to divest from gaming interests after the club sold its poker machines.
The National Rugby League is a sport that is underpinned by gaming revenue, with the Storm looking to break the mould of clubs north of the border that rely on the income for survival.
Victoria’s only NRL club is privately owned by a conglomerate including caravan magnate Gerry Ryan and bookmaker Matt Tripp.
The group sold the Kealba Hotel in Melbourne’s north-west, including its 172 poker machine licenses to IPR Hotels last month.
The hotel in St Albans was the only Storm-related pokies holding and is a site where punters lost the fourth-highest amount of money out of nearly 500 venues in Victoria. Losses at the venue neared A$20 million in 2018.
The Victorian government’s gambling regulator has indicated that poker machine licenses are valued at approximately A$13 million.
The sale of the license and the hotel points to a significant windfall for the 2018 NRL Grand Finalist’s, who purchased the venue for A$10 million in 2015.
The Kealba Hotel is within the Brimbank local government area,, which last year recorded the highest pokies losses in the state.
The A$140 million loss figure is a state record.
The Kealba Hotel and pokie machine sell-off has been welcomed by gambling reform advocates.
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