Collingwood pokies

A scramble for pokie machines in Victoria is under way after the Western Bulldogs decided to offload 70 of its lucrative money-makers. (Image: AFP)

A sell-off of pokie machines by AFL team, Western Bulldogs, has triggered a fight among interested rivals.

The footie team is offloading around 70 pokies as part of its long-term development strategy. However, the Bulldogs have already been contacted by rival teams and the Melbourne Racing Club, the Herald Sun reports.

Critics have attacked the “hypocrisy” of teams interested in purchasing the machines, having gone public in opposition to the controversial money-guzzlers just months ago.

Geelong have made inquiries about buying up the stock, although the side’s president Colin Carter was only a few months ago denouncing AFL’s role in offering gambling to spectators.

AFL’s Pokies Addiction Continues

Most AFL sides now offer pokie machines at their clubs for over-18s. Collingwood last week applied to increase the number of pokies it has from 80 to 90 at its Coach and Horses Hotel. This comes despite a pledge by the club to be “pokie-free” within the next decade.

The move drew consternation from the Alliance For Gambling Reform, who said:

“[Collingwood boss, Gary] Pert needs to understand the machines and the implications of the upcoming trial for the AFL.”

The league is being urged to rethink its reliance on lucrative pokies, which bring in millions of dollars in extra revenue every year.

“Collingwood doesn’t need the losses of addicted gamblers to be financially sustainable,” said local councillor, Stephen Mayne, “and it would be better for all concerned if it followed North Melbourne’s lead and exited the pokies industry, sooner rather than later.”

Currently, North Melbourne is the sole club from Victoria which doesn’t operate pokies for its visitors.

Pressure To Close AFL Tax Loophole

Last month, AFL clubs were slammed for allegedly exploiting tax loopholes which allows them to claim back millions of bucks in gaming revenue.

Clubs currently receive favourable tax breaks on their gaming machines. However, a portion of money saved from the club’s pokies business is meant to be ploughed back into the community. The Herald Sun discovered that in reality, clubs were funneling cash back into improving their own grounds and facilities.

Under state rules, community clubs pay around 25 percent in tax on gambling machines. A third is earmarked for local projects. However, with clubs claiming “operating costs”, the actual outlay for the community ends up being fairly minimal.

The definition of a “community benefit” is fairly broad and clubs have exploited the loophole to splash out on their own facilities. Claims included a $1.7 million bill for operating costs by Richmond for their Wantirna Club facility. Only $6,248 made it out to community projects. Meanwhile, Geelong, who are fighting hard to snap up the Bulldogs’ outgoing pokies, donated over $25,000 to local stadiums. On the flipside, the club claimed around $1.6 million for its operating costs.

Change could be coming, however. Last month, the Future Melbourne Committee passed a motion calling on clubs to “develop a funding support plan to encourage all AFL clubs to transition away from reliance on poker machines.” Clubs will also be urged to cut their gambling machines if they want to cut commercial deals.

With so much TV cash sloshing around the AFL right now, the day when clubs finally wean themselves off pokie machines could be nearer than we thought.

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