The Melbourne Demons will abandon poker machine revenue by 2022. This was stated in a news statement last month. According to the sources the AFL’s oldest club will divest its interests in poker machines amid a growing divide in the league as to the merits of earning income from wagering.
Described as significant day Demons chairman Glen Bartlett said Melbourne will join the Kangaroos as the only Victorian clubs without poker machines by 2022. The Demons have sold the Leighoak Club in Oakleigh to the Moonee Valley Racing Club and have opted against renewing a licence which expires in four years at the Bentleigh Club.
Melbourne currently earns about $2 million a year from their pokies investments, with chief executive Peter Jackson saying the Demons will need to increase their normal investment by 10 per cent to cover the shortfall.
The Demons said community sentiment, a desire to focus on their “core business” of football and other business factors played a role in their decision to follow the lead of North Melbourne.
Jackson sat on the inaugural Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation board but said that did not necessarily mean that he thought “all gaming and all wagering is evil”. But he thinks that that it was a sporting club and the games for which people came to enjoy and not the pokies.
Earning revenue from problem gambling is distasteful
The move comes at a time Melbourne is viewed as an emerging power on the field, with attendances and membership increasing under the stewardship of Jackson and Bartlett. During a National Press Club speech in the infancy of his chairmanship, AFL commissioner Richard Goyder expressed his distaste that clubs profited from problem gamblers. But he said he did not want to be seen as a “holier than thou person” saying to Melbourne clubs to “get rid of pokies”.
Bartlett said Melbourne’s decision was made without any pressure from AFL headquarters. The league has, however, formed a task force to investigate methods to reduce the reliance clubs have on machines.
This has sparked angst from some clubs, with Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett labelling the AFL’s stance on poker machines “highly hypocritical” given the league’s ties with sports wagering companies.
Also Carlton powerbroker Bruce Mathieson went further last month, declaring the Hawks would not have survived if he had not established the Waverley Gardens venue for them in Mulgrave in the late 1990s. The Hawks, which were at threat of merging with Melbourne at the time, own two venues where punters lost more than $23 million in 2017.
Mathieson, who was a Carlton director, handed over 300 poker machines to the Blues at the start of this decade, which are run under the management of his company ALH.
Aside from North Melbourne, revenue at 17 pokies hotels controlled by Victorian clubs was estimated to be $94 million last year. North Melbourne coach Brad Scott remains proud the Kangaroos were the first to opt out garnering revenue from poker machines.
He hopes the policy extends competition-wide to negate the impact of an industry “wrecks lives and wrecks families”.
According to him Aussies have seen the damage pokies can do to society and he would much prefer from a personal point … that the AFL didn’t have any involvement in pokies whatsoever.
The Melbourne Football Club, nicknamed the Demons, is a professional Australian rules football club, playing in the Australian Football League (AFL). It is named after and based in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, and plays its home games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).