Thu, Dec 13, 9:27am by Staff Writer
Australian Football League (AFL) club the Essendon Bombers have locked in a 29 year lease extension on their pokies at the Melton Country Club.
This will enable the club to continue operating the premises and its 89 poker machines until the end of 2047.
The lease was originally due to expire at the end of 2022.
Melton City councillors voted unanimously 8-0 in favour of the Bombers to continue its operations, which saw them earn over $5.68 million in revenue from the venue during the 2017-18 financial year.
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said of the decision “Essendon knows you do not enrich a football club on the back of personal misery and broken lives, which is why other AFL clubs have decided to get out of pokies.”
“The RSL (Melton sub-branch) also acted badly in advocating for more personal and community misery just because they get one room for RSL meetings.”
Combined with its 101 poker machines at Windy Hill in Essendon, the 190 machines Essendon runs saw it rank fourth last financial year in poker machine revenue generated by AFL clubs, behind Hawthorn, Carlton and Collingwood, according to The Age.
To support Tim Costello’s comments, the lease extension for Essendon coincides with the announcement of fellow AFL club Collingwood announcing that it had sold its two gaming licences.
In a sale that was discussed in October and completed last Friday, the club’s two licences, The Coach and Horses in Ringwood and The Club in Caroline Springs were sold to the Melbourne Racing Club.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said of the transactions “Collingwood has been in a strong financial position but, as of Friday, it is in an even stronger position with the sale of the venues and gaming machines.”
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) December 11, 2018
“The significant funds flowing from the sale will be put to a Future Fund that, with the continued support of members, will secure Collingwood’s future as a strong, independent and progressive sports club.”
“We view this as a prudent commercial decision but also a strategic initiative that allows us to intensify our focus on our core responsibilities – Collingwood fans, elite sporting performance and community – and pursue new and different opportunities for growth.”
Collingwood enjoyed a successful on-field season in 2018 reaching the grand final where they were defeated by the West Coast Eagles by five points in a classic encounter.
Whilst the Bombers will continue generating gaming revenue from their Windy Hill and Melton Country Club operations, they intend to rely less on gaming revenue to fund its operations.
Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell told The Age last month: “We have spoken to this publicly on a number of occasions – we endeavour to become less reliant on gaming as a revenue stream and we have invested heavily in building our strategy and investment divisions to work toward exploring opportunities in this space.”
“That said, our venues employ more than 120 full and part time staff in the communities where they operate, and we directly contribute investment into these communities to fund a range of sport and community activities.”
“We continue to remain committed to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation charter, and challenge the parameters with which our venues operate to ensure we provide an appropriate level of governance and oversight.”
Poker machine revenue has been a hot topic recently in sport at both professional and community level in Victoria.
Other Victorian AFL clubs Melbourne, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs have announced planned exits from the gaming industry.
North Melbourne has remained out of the poker machine industry for the past decade.
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