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Pokies Funded Clubs to be Given the Boot by Council

Thu, Dec 6, 10:26am by Staff Writer

The Darebin City Council have taken a hard line to revenue raising via poker machines to sporting clubs within the municipality.

The council has adopted a controversial action plan where funding from the council will be either cut or reduced should sporting and community clubs be receiving any financial or in-kind support from pokie machine venues.

The extent of these funding cuts means that sporting clubs who receive this type of support from electronic gaming machine (EGM) venues will no longer have access to council sporting grounds, venues or council property and won’t be eligible for any council assistance.

Any community groups who meet at venues with pokie machines will no longer be supported by council.

In addition, any groups that receive sponsorships by EGM revenue will have their support cut by council by the equivalent amount.

Darebin City Council mayor Cr Susan Rennie, who is also a member of Alliance for Gambling Reform said the strong stance against sporting clubs and community groups receiving funding by poker machine venues has received positive feedback by clubs.

She says “these clubs welcome this policy direction which will assist them to make safer choices for sport and recreation, with one club already submitting a transition plan to divest their current sponsorship arrangement, while another stopped their sponsorship agreement altogether.”

The focus according to Cr Rennie is to reduce the harm associated with gambling within the municipality citing that “every year in Darebin people lose over $80 million to gambling, and many of these people are the ones who can least afford it.”

Sporting clubs directly impacted by the move

However, the move has not be universally accepted with close to 10 sporting or seniors clubs directly impacted by the change.

The Northcote Park Football Club is one of these clubs with club general manager Dennis McNiece considering this a “direct attack” on them.

The club operates the Northern Jackpot Pokies in Brunswick. With the venue housing 85 gaming machines and receiving over $4.2 million in gambling revenue in the 2017-18 financial year, the change would result in the club not having access to it’s football ground.

The council is intending to give local groups four years to transition away from their reliance on poker machine revenue to finance their operations.

Mr. McNiece told the Age the club is misunderstood with their use of the gaming revenue saying that “money we get from gaming goes back into the community and running the football and netball club. Without these funds, how do we continue?”

He believes that the club receives about $200,000 in revenue from the pokies venue. With close to 900 football and netball players, which include about 600 children, the club is fearful the ban may force its business to close. He also states that the club runs strict functions and runs regular lectures on the dangers of gambling, alcohol and drugs.

Amateur football club, the Preston Bullants, will go into dialogue with the council on the matter according to its president Jon Carter. He says the club won’t step away from its Darebin RSL sponsorship stating “this broad-based ban is fairly heavy handed.”

A spokesperson for the Victorian Responsible Gaming Foundation states that councils are encouraged to formulate local policies to deal with the harmful effects of gambling.

“The Foundation appreciates the challenges community sporting clubs face in attracting financial support and understands that many currently rely on funding from gambling-related sponsorships. Consequently, these clubs are not precluded from participating in our Love the Game Sporting Club Program.”

In 2016-17, gambling losses in Victoria totalled $5.48 billion.

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