Melbourne Football Club has committed to cutting its gambling ties, announcing it will end financial dependence on poker machines.
The Demons on Wednesday announced the Leighoak Club, with 92 poker machines, had been sold to Moonee Valley Racing Club effective from July 31. The club will still be backed by 88 machines at the Bentleigh Club until August 2022, when those gaming entitlements end.
Chairman Glen Bartlett said the announcement was a “significant day” for the club.
“Gaming isn’t our core business and whilst it has been a financial imperative to operate within this space in the past, we feel the time was right to take action to exit the industry,” Bartlett said in a statement.
CEO Peter Jackson said the club would need to claw back about 10 per cent of its overall revenue after losing pokies income.
“Over a two- to three-year period, we will be able to re-adjust and grow, and we have several ideas on how to do that,” he said on Wednesday.
The club’s 2017 financial report put revenue for the year ending October 31 at $51,988,711 and reported ‘social and gaming revenue’ of $11,641,049.
Poker machines at the Leighoak club raked in $7,747,207.34 in the 2016/17 financial year. Machines at the Bentleigh club brought in $2,564,945.12 in the same period, according to Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation figures.
Bartlett said the club was “in the strongest financial position it has ever been in” and said the decision was securing “the best commercial outcome” while “prioritising the community sentiment”.
“With our members support, we are well-placed to grow football-related income and to refocus our business to make the transition from our reliance on gaming to ensure that we are financially strong and stable for our next generation.”
He said the AFL did not pressure the club to end its pokies dependence.
“This was the best business decision for our football club,” he said.
"After a lot of careful consideration, of a number of factors, the board and executive decided it was time to exit the gaming industry."
Hear from Chairman Glen Bartlett at today's important announcement. 🎥👇 pic.twitter.com/OuLNJmJRNM
— Melbourne FC (@melbournefc) April 4, 2018
Jackson added Melbourne wasn’t influenced by other clubs, and did not judge those financed by gambling revenue.
Melbourne will join North Melbourne as the only Victorian-based AFL clubs not financially backed by pokies.
It comes as City of Melbourne called on city-based AFL clubs that operate gaming machines – Melbourne, Collingwood, Carlton and Richmond – and the city’s 11 gambling venues to reduce the number of machines.
Collingwood has organised a meeting with the council to discuss its plans, City of Melbourne said in a statement on Wednesday.
Richmond and Carlton said they were considering the request.
Poker machines in the city fall under state government legislation, but are subject to City of Melbourne planning controls.
“While the planning scheme does not enable council to directly limit the number of machines, we can work co-operatively with venues and clubs to minimise the harm caused by problem gambling,” councillor Rohan Leppert said.
“We’re hopeful that all AFL clubs will recognise the importance of minimising the harm that pokies cause.”
There was a mixed response from the 11 venues within the council.
Batman’s Hill on Collins Hotel said it had no intention of taking away any of its 22 machines, which rake in more than $2 million a year, according to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
Most venues did not reply or said they were still reviewing the request.
Doxa Social Club Limited, which operates Clocks at Flinders Street Station, has requested a meeting with council.
Gamblers Helpline: 1800 858 858.