Councillor slams Geelong Cats’ pokies sale
A Geelong councillor has laid the boot into the Geelong Football Club, slamming it for publicly exiting the pokies industry while selling its gaming licence machines back into its own community.
The Geelong Advertiser reports that City of Greater Geelong councillor Anthony Aitken tackled the football club for washing its hands of the issue, as councillors voted to allocate $30,000 to fight a Clifton Springs Golf Club application to add 10 pokies machines to its gaming room.
“I think it’s very Pontius Pilate of the Geelong Football Club in that they’ve taken all the praise associated with getting out of gambling, but what they’re doing is inflicting and continuing to inflict the pain on the rest of Geelong,” Cr Aitken said.
“They have very publicly said they’ve got out of pokies machines, but what they have done is they’re selling them out to the broader Geelong community…there’s 110 of them the football clubs trying to flog off.
“They could have handed back these licences to the state government and the commission, but they chose not to, they actually chose to sell them into the broader community.”
The Geelong Football Club did not response to request for response.
In December, the cats confirmed they would sell a Point Cook pokies business, ending a dependence on gambling revenue that brought in up to $4 million a year at its peak.
Cats chair Colin Carter in December said the choice was a matter of principle.
“We understand that gambling is a legal activity. We understand that for a lot of people it’s harmless, but we also know that it’s not harmless for everybody,” he said.
“We want to be a positive force in the community, so making money out of something that is harmful to some people is not a business we wanted to be in.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello this week praised the Geelong Football Club for its recent decision to exit the gaming industry, and lobbied for a decrease in the number of pokie machines across the region.
“One of the quickest boosts that could occur in Geelong’s economy would be taking poker machines out of the equation,” he said.
“They are designed to be deliberately addictive and are really no different to cigarettes when you look at them from that context.”
Geelong councillors resolved to spend $30,000 this week on legal counsel and an expert consultant to fight the application by Clifton Springs Golf Club, which hopes to increase its pokies offering from 40 to 50 machines.
The latest electronic gaming figures show punters lost $1.87 million to the Clifton Springs Golf Club’s 40 machines in the last six months of 2019.
The club had applied to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation for the extra machines.
The city has opposed the two previous applications for more pokies from local venues, unsuccessfully, against the Belmont RSL and successfully against the Geelong Polish Association.
In 2019, Geelong’s pokies swallowed a total of $120.3 million from residents.
Cats remove gambling advertising from home stadium
The Geelong Cats’ home stadium will be the first regular AFL venue in Victoria to have a gambling advertising blackout on its LED signage and scoreboard.
GMHBA Stadium will be a gambling-free stadium in 2019 and beyond according to a report published in The Age.
The Cats had previously committed to rid GMHBA Stadium of gambling advertising by the 2020 season, but achieved their goal a year early.
The club is not set to suffer financially from the move and will meet its commitment to be debt-free for the first time in 50 years by 2021, even with its exit from poker machines to be completed soon.
Geelong sells 20 per cent of its LED advertising space to TechFront, which on-sells the space to advertisers.
The club estimates that one third of that 20 per cent has been sold to betting companies in recent seasons.
In a re-negotiation of the contract the external company has agreed not to sell advertising space to gambling advertisers.
None of the 80 per cent of remaining space that Geelong sells itself goes to betting companies.
Mars Stadium in Ballarat also has no gambling advertising on its fixed-ad boards, but only hosts two Western Bulldogs home games each season.