Should the Panthers Gamble to Get More?

There’s no doubt about it, times are hard in the NRL. Changes to the way funds from poker machines are taxed and distributed has forced virtually every club in the country to reshape their business and explore new ways of generating much needed funding for the club.

Fortunately, the suits up at Panthers HQ have been able to make wholesale changes to their business model in recent years and the club’s finances are now starting to show signs of improvement.

Indeed, according to the latest annual review (released in March 2015), the Panthers Group enjoyed another year of growth in 2014 with EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) hitting $17,059,000 for a net profit of $866,000.

Although far from mind-blowing, the fact the club was able to edge into the black was certainly a big step forward.

Changes Made but More Needed

Money Plant

Money Plant” (CC BY 2.0) by  Tax Credits 

Part of the reason for the club’s recent financial revival was a raft of new investments, asset sales and corporate restructuring. For example, the sale of the Wallacia Golf Club has helped to boost the club’s finances whilst driving down operating costs.

Reducing the number of active companies in the Panther Group from five to eight has also helped to streamline the business and improve the annual balance sheet.

Moreover, on the rugby side of things, the construction of a new Rugby League headquarters, combined with initiatives at the grassroots level, have contributed to an upswing in the group’s finances.

Finally, by working with a travel company inside the Panthers’ club stadium and agreeing a new sponsorship deal with the Pepper Group, the group’s books now look a lot healthier than they did four years ago.

The Great Gaming Link

Slot Machine Las Vegas

“Slot Machine Las Vegas” (CC BY 2.0) by  wuestenigel 

However, things could be better. Although the links between the gambling industry and rugby have gradually weakened over the last decade, that doesn’t mean this revenue stream has dried up completely.

In fact, a quick scan of the global sporting market reveals that a number of clubs are now looking towards the iGaming arena for new marketing opportunities. Although Aussie rugby has traditionally been linked to live poker machines, online gaming (iGaming) is a flourishing industry and could, therefore, provide a raft of new opportunities.

For example, one of the biggest sports clubs in the world, Manchester United, recently launched its own range of online pokies. Working with a leading software supplier, the branded game is now available across a range of casino sites in Europe.

Taking this idea, the Panthers could easily do something similar in the Aussie iGaming market with sites such as Pokies.com. By agreeing a licensing deal with a software supplier and the site, the Panthers brand could be visible to anyone who visits https://www.pokies.com/.

world through her eye

world through her eye” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  shioshvili 

Aside from additional revenue from the licensing deal, branded pokies would expose the Panthers brand to a whole new demographic, exposure which could then translate into more ticket/merchandise sales and, therefore, more cash.

In fact, as it stands, online gaming is now worth around $3.4 billion annually in Australia and that means any branded games on a site such as Pokies.com would be seen by millions of players. What’s more, because gambling and rugby have always had close ties in Australia, any deals in the iGaming world would seem like a natural fit.

The efforts of the Panthers Group over the last few years have certainly been impressive. However, with more work still do to and a myriad of possibilities out there, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if we were to see some sort of branded casino game or other similar innovation from the club in the coming years.

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