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Essendon Bombers CEO outlines long term pokies strategy

Thu, Dec 20, 12:09pm by Staff Writer

Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell has told Melbourne newspaper, The Age of the role of its involvement with the poker machine or pokies industry long term, outlining that its other revenues streams in place will be able to reduce the reliance on gaming revenue.

He told the newspaper that the club remains committed to pursuing pokies revenue in both the short and medium term, emphasising the community role the gaming venues operated by the club has, with 140 people employed by the clubs Windy Hill and Melton Country Club facilities.

“We need to realise that, yes, pokies are an element of these venues, but there’s much more to these venues than just gaming… there’s a range of community groups that use these venues… we have to be conscious of their broader impact,” said Campbell.

Club’s governance of gaming venue operations very important

Campbell emphasised the club’s governance model in relation to operating the gaming venues, mentioning that other operators mightn’t adopt the same levels of oversight and community consideration.

“We do not, and have no desire to, incentivise membership underpinned by gaming … we are not involved in loyalty programs,” he said.

The club’s involvement with the Melton Country Club has been under fire in the past week, with the Melton City Council voting unanimously 8-0 last Monday night in approving a 29-year lease extension to 2047.

However, one councilor who did not attend last Monday’s meeting, Councilor Steve Abboushi put in a rescission motion which may potentially reject the extension, citing the need to hear from both sides of the community before making a decision on the lease.

The next council meeting in February will determine whether the matter undergoes another review and potential rejection.

In respect to the club’s view on extending the lease, Campbell said “what the club does with that asset going forward – clearly we have a medium-term objective to continue to service community groups. What our longer-term gaming strategy looks like is something we continue to discuss and challenge.”

Diversification of revenue streams a focus for the Bombers

Campbell emphasised the club’s focus on diversifying its revenue streams.

“Make no mistake, our club is committed to investing in people and capability to challenge traditional thinking on what the footy club looks like moving forward” he said.

The club is looking towards other ventures including e-sports and property holdings to help facilitate its long-term sustainability.

A parcel of land situated parallel to the club’s base in Tullamarine will potentially generate joint ventures with the Melbourne Airport, while the freehold assets of its previous home of Windy Hill will be maximised to its commercial capacity.

Club president Lindsay Tanner addressed its pokies strategy at the Bombers’ Annual General Meeting on Monday.

Tanner reminded the audience that Essendon is a football club with financial imperatives, rather than the state government tasked with administering gambling regulations.

He stated that “it would be financially irresponsible to simply fold our cards and say, ‘OK that’s it, whatever the cost, we’re just walking out’.”

The Bombers confirmed its $5.7 million profit (before amortisation and depreciation) and net operating profit of $2.3 million in the year ending October 31 2018.

Both Melbourne and Collingwood Football Club’s exited the pokies industry this year.

Geelong and Western Bulldogs are set to follow their exit soon, while North Melbourne has been out of the pokies industry since 2008.

Poker machine revenue has been a focus of local councils in recent times with community sporting clubs also being under the spotlight, which has included banning clubs from access to council grounds should they be earning revenue from poker machines.

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