Essendon Football Club will continue to profit from poker machines in one of Australia's most disadvantaged suburbs, despite moves by rival Victorian clubs to abandon gaming revenue and a strong desire from the AFL for the competition to be pokies free.
The Bombers – whose most recent operating profit hit $4 million dollars – are currently negotiating with the City of Melton to extend their lease at the Melton Country Club beyond 2022, where Essendon operate 89 poker machines. They have another 101 machines at Windy Hill.
Essendon want to extend their lease of the Melton Country Club, and the operations of their pokies at the venue.
In the 2016-17 financial year Essendon took $11.85 million from poker machines across both venues.
Essendon declined the opportunity to comment on Monday, but The Age understands the Bombers are in discussions with the City of Melton to continue operating pokies at the venue after 2022.
"EFC are seeking greater security of tenure of the premises given it is now in the process of negotiating the next round of gaming machine entitlements for the venue with the state government, for the period of August 2022 to August 2042," council documents read.
Victoria's current poker machine entitlements expire in 2022 meaning applications for 20-year licence renewals are ongoing. Melton Country Club sits on council-owned land.
Essendon want to secure an initial four-year extension on the Melton Country Club lease, which expires in 2022, with the option of stretching the lease beyond that in five periods of five years each.
City of Melton is paid almost $290,000 per year by Essendon for the lease, but there is discomfort among some councillors about the municipality leasing property that houses poker machines.
Essendon collected more than $11 million from its two pokies venues in 2016-17.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2016, Melton is in the lowest category for socio-economic disadvantage possible, meaning it is among the poorest areas in Australia. Melton is also one of the fastest growing councils, in terms of population, in the country.
Melbourne recently committed to selling all of its poker machines by 2022 while Geelong and Collingwood are working toward a similarly timed exit from collecting gaming revenue.
AFL chairman Richard Goyder has been clear in his desire for clubs to move away from collecting poker machine losses. He has previously said he "hates" pokies.
Clubs still reliant on pokies have expressed their desire for the AFL to replace the revenue, given league leadership wants out of the gaming industry so badly, while another option floated has been for the state government to cover the clubs' revenue losses.
Hawthorn take the most money from the pokies, with $23.29 million pouring into their coffers during the 2016-17 financial year.
The next round of poker machine entitlements run from 2022 to 2042, but they can be sold at any point. This means Essendon could still abandon gaming revenue if they were to receive entitlement renewals for 2022 and beyond.
Essendon have in the past expressed their desire to lessen their reliance on pokies. In 2015 they decided they would no longer accept sponsorship from sports betting companies.
In March, Essendon announced a deal with RMIT University, with Campbell saying at the time it was such partnerships that would help his club wean off pokie revenue. The Bombers have also purchased an eSports team in another push to grow revenue from an alternate source.
Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett told The Age in February that clubs could risk becoming much weaker if the AFL forced them out of poker machines, unless alterative revenue was found.
North Melbourne are the only Victorian club who do not take money from poker machines. Non-Victorian clubs also reject poker machine revenue.
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