In Australia, the AFL is gaining momentum to get out of pokies with multiple clubs already out of the business of driving further harm. Last year in 2018, Collingwood sold it’s two poker machine venues and Melbourne promised to exit completely by 2022. It is estimated that losses will be reduced by up to $20 million in 2019, across the remaining 14 AFL club-owned venues. The AFL has also launched “Project Fruity” to try and reduce pokies dependence.
In a recent survey it was found that AFL clubs reaped millions of dollars from pokies machines last year, as pokies losses in Victorian pubs and clubs swelled to $2.7 billion which is the second highest amount on record. The data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulator saw that the losses hit the highest level in ten years, and the state’s poorest suburbs were over-represented.
Losses at Hawthorn’s venues were close to $25 million and the City of Brimbank which covers St Albans, Sunshine and surrounding areas topped the list at $143 million as the local government area with the greatest losses on pokies machines.
The $2.69 billion lost in the 2018/19 financial year is the second highest on record, after 2009. However it is only slightly (0.13 per cent) higher than last year, even with population growth and inflation is on the rise. The figures do not include more than 2500 pokies machines inside Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
Over $77 million was lost in Pokies owned by Victorian AFL Clubs
The survey data also showed that more than $77 million was lost in pokies machines owned by Victorian AFL clubs during the year. Hawthorn had the greatest share making just under $24.7 million from its 165 machines at the West Waters Hotel in Caroline Springs and Vegas At Waverley Gardens, in Mulgrave. Hawthorn, along with Carlton (which took $17.8 million at its venues), Essendon ($11.1 million), Richmond ($5.3 million) and St Kilda ($2.3 million) were all recently handed new 20-year licences to operate the machines out to 2042. But they are coming under pressure on the controversial money makers, with all other Victorian clubs either exiting their poker machines or pledging to do so.
According to Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello pokies machines lead to the loss of “much more than money”. He added that in extreme cases, pokies machines cause the loss of lives due to suicide.
Government wants Clubs to reduce their dependence on pokies
According to AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder Australian clubs wants to reduce their dependence on the gambling revenue. Collingwood got out this year selling its pokies venues – The Club in Melton and the Coach and Horses in Maroondah – late in calendar 2018. Those two venues took $12.9 million in losses across the full 2019 financial year.
- Geelong, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs have all pledged to get out of pokies, while North Melbourne has been pokies-free for a decade.
- The Bulldogs took $5.8 million from Club Leeds in Footscray and the Peninsula Club in Dromana, while Geelong took $7 million from its Brook on Sneydes hotel in Point Cook, which it hopes to sell this year.
- Melbourne sold its Leighoak Club early in the year, and made $2.8 million from its remaining venue, the Bentleigh Club in Glen Eira. The club will not renew it license on that club’s machines when it expires in 2022.
According to spokesman for Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz, the goverment was tackling problem gambling by freezing the number of pokies across the state until 2042, capping the number of pokies in vulnerable areas and limiting EFTPOS withdrawals in venues.
The Epping Plaza Hotel was the venue in Victoria with the highest losses at $20.2 million, followed by Berwick Springs Hotel ($19.6 million), the Plough Hotel in Mill Park ($19.6 million), Kealba Hotel in Sunshine ($19.2 million), and Skyways Taverner in Airport West ($18.6 million). The VCGLR data also shows that the Casey, Greater Geelong , Greater Dandenong, Hume, Monash and Wyndham council areas all recorded losses of over $100 million.