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Windsor RSL Thrives Amidst Cost of Living Crisis

Oct 20, 2023

The Windsor RSL Club has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising living costs, largely on the back of gambling revenue.

But despite the not-for-profit’s strong financial performance the club which is supposed to support ex-servicemen and women donated just 1.5 percent of its revenue back to charity and community organisations. According to the club’s website one of those organisatons was the Windsor Golf Club which Windsor RSL purchased last year. Three organisations were related to ex-servicemen and women.

Windsor RSL’s revenues rose 60 percent to $21.4 million for the year to March 31, 2023, according to its annual report. This result was buoyed by poker machines takings which jumped 70 per cent to $13.38 million. Visitors to the RSL Club are now losing more than $1 million each month on poker machines

Poker machine revenues have risen sharply at Windsor RSL.

Following the amalgamation of the two clubs they now have a combined 177 poker machines across their two premises, the largest number of any club or hotel in the Hawkesbury. They are both not-for-profit organisations and enjoy generous tax treatment. Windsor RSL paid no tax in the 2023 financial year.

The strong revenue helped deliver the club a sharp jump in earnings in 2023 with EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) more than doubling to $3.58 million.

Windsor RSL collected a profit of $528,808 for the year compared to a loss of $707,892 the previous year. The total amount attributable to members was boosted to $1.06 million due to an insurance claim of $531,162. The not-for-profit organisation now boasts more than $14 million in retained profits.

Windsor RSL is located in South Windsor one the most disadvantaged suburb in the Hawkesbury ranking as one of most disadvantaged surburb in NSW, according to the SEIFA index of relative socio-economic disadvantage. 

Yet the club donated $331,900, or 1.5 percent of its revenue to community groups, schools and sporting organisation. The annual report does not reveal how much each organisation or charity received. A list of organisations supported by the club is listed on its website and includes its wholly owned business, the Windsor Golf Club. “Windsor RSL generously supports a number of community groups and local sporting organisations,” the website states.

Just three of the 36 beneficiaries listed by the club are organisations connected to ex-servicemen and women causes. These are the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the Windsor RSL Sub Branch and Windsor RSL Fishing Club. 

RSL Clubs were established to support ex-servicemen and women. According to the constitution the RSL exists; “for the principal purpose of promoting the interests and welfare of serving and ex-serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force and their dependents…’ (RSL National 2019).

Due to their charitable status, clubs receive generous tax treatment, however just a fraction of their significant funds make it back to the men and women they claim to assist.

Two Hawkesbury Councillors, Les Sheather and Mayor Sarah McMahon are Directors on the Windsor RSL Board. Cr Sheather spoke against a gambling reform at the 2023 Australian Local Government Association National General Assembly.

The Hawkesbury LGA is home to 838 electronic gaming machines with Windsor RSL boasting 177 poker machines, followed by the Richmond Club with 106 poker machines.

Next door, the Penrith LGA is home to 2487 poker machines, one of the largest poker machines communities in the country.  Penrith Rugby Leagues Club has 530 poker machines followed by St Mary’s Rugby League Club with 450 machines and Penrith RSL with 300 poker machines.

Unlike in previous years, the annual report provided no commentary from either Windsor RSL President David Ingram or CEO Chris Whiteley. Windsor RSL did not respond to questions from the Hawkesbury Post.

For help with problem gambling call the National Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. All services are free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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