Four AFL clubs called to ditch pokies after raking in $20MILLION

Four Victorian clubs that continue to rake in money from the pokies have been urged to ditch the ‘However, there is a structural issue because the machines and the venues are sold on and still remain in the community. 

‘We are now seeing increasing pressure from a range of different stakeholders for governments to ensure that there are mechanisms when clubs get out of poker machine ownerships, that they aren’t just transferred somewhere else and continue to cause harm.

‘Maybe that means something like government buyback schemes or incentives to ensure that these machines do not remain in our communities are increasingly important to prevent harm.’

Gambling reform campaigner Tim Costello wants the four remaining AFL clubs in Victoria to walk away from the pokies

The four remaining Victorian AFL clubs to use pokies for revenue generated $20million from the machines between July and December in 2022

According to gambling reform campaigner Tim Costello, the four AFL clubs still owning gaming venues in Victoria have ‘really failed in their leadership responsibilities to the wider community’. 

‘The damage from pokies, we now know, is quite extraordinary because the machines are built for addiction. They are built to keep you playing for as long as you can and losing as much as you can,’ he said.

‘It’s the exact opposite of what clubs say their reason for existence is, to be great community partners.The thing that disturbs me is the lack of moral leadership.

‘There are clubs that have got out – it wasn’t easy, they took a hit, but they said it’s the right thing to do. The four clubs still in it, they have merely mouthed things like: ‘Yes, we don’t like them, yes, it would be right to get out’, betmatik then they literally have a motto of: ‘Whatever it takes’.’

‘They wouldn’t take monies from other legal, adult products … they wouldn’t take money from the Victorian Brothel Association, they wouldn’t take money from the tobacco association, which is legal.This really is a failure of moral leadership. And it should be a level playing field when there is an adult product doing damage in the community,’ he said.

‘To say we drip feed a little bit back in is just greenwashing. It’s transparently nonsense.’


Patrick Cripps, Matthew Kennedy and Jesse Motlop of the Blues celebrate during the 2023 AFL match simulation between the Carlton Blues and the Collingwood Magpies

Back in 2020, Carlton Football Club made headlines when they revealed their plans to move away from the poker machine industry.However, one of their biggest supporters has been Bruce Mathieson, a prominent billionaire in the gaming industry, whose son Craig sits on the Blues board.

Bruce Mathieson resigned from his position as director of the $13billion Endeavour Group in September 2021.The Endeavour Group is the largest owner of poker machines in Australia.


Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti of the Bombers celebrates kicking a goal with team mates during the AFL match simulation between Gold Coast Suns and Essendon Bombers

In 2018, Melton City Council voted unanimously to extend Essendon Football Club’s lease for the Melton Country Club by 29 years, which permits the club to continue operating the venue and its 89 poker machines until 2047. 

The lease extension was granted after gamblers lost a total of $5.69 million in 2017-18.Additionally, Essendon Football Club also owns 101 poker machines at Windy Hill.

Interestingly, just one month before the announcement of the lease extension for Melton Country Club, Essendon’s CEO Xavier Campbell made a statement to The Age, expressing the club’s desire to reduce reliance on gaming revenue. 

Campbell stated that the club had been investing heavily in its strategy and investment divisions to explore other opportunities in this space.

St Kilda

Zak Jones of the Saints handballs during a St Kilda Saints AFL training session at RSEA Park

The Saints debt grew from $10million to $12million in 2018 which made it hard for the club to divorce itself from its pokies. 

While the Saints have come a long way since then, betmatik reducing their debut to just over $7million at the end of 2022, the club is still reliant on its pokies.The club issued a statement in 2019 saying it was working on identifying alternative revenue streams.

‘The club is working to identify alternative revenue streams which will allow the club to reduce its reliance on gaming, when financially viable,’ the club said.

‘The club has begun initial discussions with the AFL about an industry-wide approach to reduce the gaming revenue in the industry.’


Dustin Martin of the Tigers celebrates kicking a goal during the AFL match simulation between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Richmond Tigers

Richmond Football Club’s former president, Peggy O’Neal, stated in a letter to members in late 2020 that the club was able to consider its long-term position regarding gaming after resolving litigation related to its  Wantirna Club lease.

O’Neal’s statement suggested that Richmond may have been considering divesting from gaming operations.However, the club is still generating profits from poker machines despite O’Neal’s comments.