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Pokies vote for Bombers a tough call for Melton City Council

Wed, Dec 12, 2:50pm by Staff Writer

The Melton City Council are set to reveal the result of their vote of Australian Football League club, the Essendon Bombers after their council meeting last night.

The Bombers, who are requesting a 29 year extension of their lease to operate the Melton Country Club to the end of 2047, had their request heard overnight at council headquarters by the nine Counsellors.

The gaming industry has been a hot topic in the football world in recent times with AFL clubs the Collingwood Magpies, Geelong Cats, Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs all planning exits from the industry.

At present, the North Melbourne Kangaroos are the only Victorian club in the competition to not profit from pokie revenue and have done so for the past decade.

With 89 pokie machines at the Melton Country Club, the venue is a profitable earner for the AFL club. Combined with their 101 pokie machines at the club’s former training base Windy Hill in Essendon, the club collected over $11 million from the two venues in the 2016-17 financial year.

Essendon have one of the biggest membership bases in the AFL

Despite suffering a financial toll as a result of it’s highly publicised supplements saga during the 2012 AFL season, the Bombers have bounced back both on the ladder and financially this past year and have managed to retain its status as a powerhouse club within the competition.

Essendon had the fourth highest members of any club this year, with over 79,319 joined up for the season ahead of arch-rival and grand finalist Collingwood who had 75,507.

The 79,319 figure was a significant increase on it’s 2017 total of 67,768 members, an increase of 11,551.

Alliance for Gambling Reform director Tim Costello wants the Melton City Council to allow the current lease to expire at the scheduled end of its current term in 2022.

He told The Age “with a deluge of television advertising and kids getting increasingly addicted to the screen, the Australian community has never been more concerned about gambling and they want their elected representatives to do something about it.

This is why AFL clubs such as Collingwood, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have all announced they are divesting their poker machines and why City of Melton should take this opportunity to force Essendon to do likewise.”

He added “if the Melton councillors are brave and reject the officer recommendation, it will have a powerful motivating impact on the gambling reform movement, following on from the ground-breaking new gambling policy approved unanimously by City of Darebin councillors last Monday.”

Pressure on Melton to follow Darebin’s lead

With the City of Darebin approving a controversial decision to enforce sanctions on community sporting clubs who profit from gaming revenue, there will be a spotlight on the Melton City Council’s decision.

Melton councilor Cr Steve Abboushi told The Age he saw both sides of the argument.

“I’m going to go into chamber with an open mind, having weighed up the benefits of Essendon football club being there, i.e. their community benefits program and how that assists community clubs, versus the millions of dollars the venue rips out of our community, and the need for adequate community space” he said.

Gamblers at the Melton Country Club lost $5.685 million at the venue across the 2017-18 financial year.

The money lost from gamblers at the Melton Country Club has certainly had a positive impact on the Bombers bottom line during the same period.

Essendon announced a record net operating profit of $2.321 million net operating profit for the 2017-18 financial year, with gaming revenue a contributing factor to the outcome.

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