In a continuation of a disturbing trend, Brisbane City Council (BCC) is once again attempting to gift a bowls club site to the Brisbane Racing Club (BRC), in the face of strong community opposition. This time it is Stafford’s turn to be clubbed by the BCC, who seem to relish every opportunity to unload community assets onto an organisation solely dedicated to gambling.

Why is that when we elect people to represent our interests, they inevitably act directly against our wishes?

This club attack mirrors the process where Hamilton (2010) and Acacia Ridge (2018) bowls clubs were taken over by BRC for minimal rent and turned into generic sports clubs replete with large numbers of poker machines, TAB and Keno. It also raises the spectre of the protests over East Brisbane Bowls Club, a valuable community asset now listed for demolition.

Announced without notice, BCC’s conduct in the lease transfer from Crushers to the Brisbane Racing Club raises serious concerns over the lack of transparency, lack of community consultation, and that the expression of interest and tendering process was not followed.


Some background might be helpful at this point. The Stafford Bowls Club closed in 2016 due to declining membership, changing demographics and the limitations of a single-use operation. The BCC called for proposal from sporting and community groups, but predictably awarded the lease to the Crushers Leagues Club to renovate the building into a – you guessed it – generic sports club containing over 70 poker machines. Crushers’ plans were approved, and a 20-year lease was granted by the council on June 11, 2019. Since then, no work has been done and the premises have fallen into disrepair – neither the Crushers nor the BCC have maintained the club house despite clear obligations to do so.

Crushers then submitted a request on 5 August 2022 to assign the lease to BRC due to Crushers’ being unable to fulfil any of the lease obligations. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the BCC’s process for selecting successful tenderers! And since when does a defunct, non-performing entity get to pick whoever they want to take over the lease of a community-owned asset?

The BCC now says they don’t want to re-open the proposal as the process “has already been out to tender” in 2019. But the BRC wasn’t the successful tenderer. Council’s own guidelines mandate they must open the process up to all the original applicants, at the very least.

The Stafford Bowls Club has been neglected and allowed to run down since its closure in 2016.


Then there’s the issue of another 76 poker machines in an area already over-served with gambling. We know it’s a destructive and anti-social force. We know it strips money from those least able to afford it (and in this case, gives it to one of the wealthiest clubs in Queensland).

That’s not even considering the billions of dollars of “dirty” cash that has been money laundered through poker machines in NSW pubs and clubs. The proposed crackdown in NSW means those criminals will simply move operations to Queensland. Why does Council want that?

Is that responsible and ethical governance? Is that operating in the best interests of the community?

As older residents move out of the suburb, younger and more diverse people with expectations of relevant community facilities have revitalised the area. The residents and ratepayers of Stafford are determined that this site will not suffer the same fate as the other bowls clubs. We are asking that the BCC halt the process of transferring the lease and consult with us in a fair and transparent process to find a brighter future for our beloved Stafford Bowls Club. 

We’d like to see a true community hub, where every person is welcomed and can find a place, and where various sports and associations can have a home. We don’t need another TAB and pokie den.


The Stafford Community Hub not Race Club residents’ group has a petition at . It calls for BCC to reconsider the lease assignment, and to work towards a new legacy for the bowls club that aligns with the values and goals of the Stafford community. This could include a vibrant community hub that serves the needs of residents and provides opportunities for social, recreational and cultural activities.

We are asking citizens from across Brisbane to sign the e-petition and make their voices heard. By coming together and showing their support, they can help bring about a positive change for the Stafford community, and hopefully make the Brisbane City Council think carefully before offloading community assets to special interest groups. Will you help us?


In response to questions put to Council by the Westender, a Council Spokesperson said:

“Brisbane is the fastest growing capital city in Australia and Council continues to guide this growth through the City Plan and localised neighbourhood plans.

“Council has no plans to introduce high density living in Stafford and does not believe such a proposal is supported by residents.

“Brisbane Racing Club will spend approximately $7.5 million to deliver a fantastic refurbished community venue at the Stafford Bowls Club for all locals to enjoy.

“The club will also be required to contribute at least $200,000 annually to local sports and recreation clubs.

“This will be in addition to Council’s significant support for local sports clubs, which includes a wide range of grants and other assistance.”


  • Stafford Bowls Club’s Sport and Recreation zoning will not change
  • Crushers League Club’s assignment of its 20 year lease with a 10 year option to BRC met Council’s criteria and did not require a new tender
  • Approval of gaming machines is a matter for the State Government’s Office of Liquor and Gaming.

Council did not respond directly to questions about engagement with the local community, on evidence for detrimental effects of gambling, nor on how the planned lease fits with Council’s strategic plan for healthy, active community development and public spaces.


“Save our Bowlo” | Residents take their fight for East Brisbane Bowlo to City Hall