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Essendon Bombers Pokies Extension May Be Reversed

Mon, Dec 17, 2:25pm by Staff Writer

City of Melton’s approval for a 29-year lease extension to the Australian Football League club pokies operation at the Melton Country Club has come under fire and despite the approval, this appears to not be the last we’ve heard of it.

At last Monday night’s meeting, the councillors unanimously voted 8-0 in favour of Essendon to continue to run its 89 poker machines at the venue until the end of 2047.

The 8-0 unanimous verdict appeared a conclusive result for the Bombers, however Melton councillor Steve Abboushi who was not present at the meeting, has since put forward a recission motion.

The motion has the potential to repeal the council’s resolution.

Melton Councillor feels both sides need to be heard

Cr Abboushi told the Star Weekly “We need an opportunity to hear from all sides, not just Essendon’s”.

“I will always consider these matters with an open mind – I just feel that allowing a 29-year lease extension of a council-owned facility without an opportunity to consider all the associated issues is quite serious,” he said.

“There was absolutely no debate on this matter on Monday [at the council meeting] and I can’t understand why.”

The outcome of the rescission motion means that the matter may be further debated at the council’s next meeting in February. For this to occur, Cr Abboushi’s motion will need to be seconded by another councillor at the beginning of the meeting.

Alliance of Gambling Reform spokeman Tim Costello has expressed his disappointment with the Melton council’s decision.

“Unlike its struggling community, City of Melton has so much cash from developers it doesn’t need to make $294,000 a year from an Essendon pokies venue,” he said.

“Melton is one of the fastest growing councils in Australia but also suffers considerable social disadvantage such as high levels of family violence, mortgage stress and crime.

“Council has a moral obligation to not add to this problem by enabling pokies dens to operate in council venues.

“They should read their own 2017 Municipal Health Plan and enact their own strategic objective of ‘reducing harm from gambling’.”

February council meeting may result in decision review

The rescission motion means debate will resume on the Essendon lease at the council’s next meeting in February, provided Cr Abboushi’s motion is seconded by another councillor at the beginning of the meeting.

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.

The club’s current lease expires in February 2022.

Whilst the Melton Country Club’s $5.685 million is ranked as the lowest level of losses from gamblers across the seven pokies venues in Melton, the municipality collectively garnered a record $67.8 million dollars from gamblers over the 12 months to the end of October.

“Melton needs more community facilities, so why not just rip out the pokies, say farewell to Essendon and convert the Melton Country Club into an alternative facility, such as a council-subsidised ‘pokies free’ RSL and bowling club located in a public recreation zone,” Mr Costello said.

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.”

The extension of the Bombers lease at Melton Country Club last week coincided with fellow AFL powerhouse Collingwood Magpies exit from the pokies industry following the sale of the licenses to their two venues to the Melbourne Racing Club.

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