Thu, Feb 6, 12:36pm by Ethan Anderson
Hawthorn Football Club president Jeff Kennett says premiership star James Morrissey is entitled to his opinion, but the Hawks have no intention of ceding their reliance on the gaming business.
In a column published by The Age last Monday, Morrissey, who played in Hawthorn’s 1988, 1989 and 1991 premierships, declared it was time for his former club to pull out of its two gaming venues.
Mr Kennett insisted on Tuesday that the Hawks would not do that, for he and the board had a responsibility to keep the club financially healthy.
Asked if the Hawks would follow Morrissey’s call, Kennett responded: “No, and James is entitled to his opinion.
“We are a family club and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some, on the other hand, have a responsibility for running the club and that lies with the board. James doesn’t have that responsibility.”
Mr Kennett said he did not feel the need to make changes despite growing community concerns about pokies.
“They are legal. We look after our patrons well. It’s not a concern,” he said.
Asked if it was business as usual, he replied: “Absolutely”.
The Hawks own Vegas at Waverley Gardens club in Mulgrave in Melbourne’s south-east, which has 75 poker machines, and the West Waters Hotel in Caroline Springs, home to 90 machines.
Mr Kennett has previously stressed the importance of the gaming revenues, including at the club’s annual general meeting in December, 2018.
Last year, the Hawks delivered a net operating surplus of $2.15 million for the financial year ending October 31.
Mr Morrissey said the Hawks’ reliance on gaming was a major issues.
“I am a paid-up member of the Hawthorn Football Club, former player and proud life member. Gambling revenue for my club from poker machines is the highest of Victorian AFL clubs that continue to profit from them. Punters’ losses in 2018-19 into our 165 machines were more than $24 million,” he said.
“My club’s reliance on gaming revenue has never sat well with me and I have raised concerns with the club, including at the recent AGM.
“As we embark on an ambitious and high-budget plan to build a new home precinct, it would appear that reliance might remain for years to come. I support the aspiration of the development concept but not of a scale reliant at any level on gaming revenue.”
— JonPierik (@Pierik_AgeSport) February 4, 2020
North Melbourne, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs are not in the gaming industry.
Geelong will finalise the sale of their remaining pokies licences by early this year, while Melbourne’s gaming revenue will cease in 2022.
However, the Hawks, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond and St Kilda were last year awarded new 20-year licences to operate machines.
The Hawks are chasing funds to help build their new training headquarters in Dingley – the Kennedy Community Centre.
In what has been dubbed “the most significant transformation” in the history of the club, Kennett revealed last year the club required $130 million for a facility that would also be available to the public.
The annual financial report released in October said $27 million had so far been raised through the club’s foundation.
“The next six months are critical as the club finalises our planning scheme amendment and continues to fundraise through all levels of government. The club currently holds a strong short-term cash position, which will enable works to be commenced as soon as the planning scheme amendment is finalised,” the report said.
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