Fairfax is pathetic

AFL clubs talk up community leadership while fostering pokie addiction

Date October 27, 2013
Trevor Grant



Playing games: A sign outside Essendon's Windy Hill club. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

With a poker machine addiction now embedded in the finances of AFL clubs, it is legitimate to question the league's self-proclaimed role as a champion of social responsibility.

Certainly, some people believe football's link with the pokies is damaging the community from which it draws its millions of supporters.

This week The Age reported that the 1317 poker machines in nine Victorian AFL clubs last year drained $85 million from the pockets of customers, a good proportion of whom are football fans. They would also make up a fair swag of the gambling addicts who, according to the voice of the anti-pokies movement and World Vision CEO, Tim Costello, contribute 40 per cent of this revenue.

Geelong, which drained $9.6 million from users of its 180 poker machines, is a club torn between its social conscience and the desire to maximise corporate opportunities, as was made clear to me this week when I spoke to the Cats' president, Colin Carter.


I rang Carter to ask about the apparent conflict between his presidency at Geelong and his position as a director of World Vision, which, according to Costello, has ''screening policies'' which preclude it from taking money from gambling. This policy was revealed to AFL clubs two years ago when World Vision lent its name to North Melbourne in the form of a ''community partnership''.

This week, Costello again made clear his distaste for the AFL's poker machine links when addressing the list of losses at pokie venues run by clubs. ''I welcome the publishing of the real AFL ladder,'' he said. ''AFL clubs boast of their community support and what they put back; this tells you what they are taking out in terms of the cost to families, businesses and crime in the community. I think AFL clubs should bite the bullet. Forty per cent of that revenue comes from addicted people.''

Carter denied there was any conflict between his roles at Geelong and World Vision. ''I don't see it as an institutional conflict. It's a personal issue I'm wrestling with,'' he said. ''Actually I'm glad Tim has that public stance. I would do nothing to tell him to shut up about it. I think we need national reform of this industry.''

Indeed, Carter said he was uncomfortable with the example being set by AFL clubs through the increasing dependence on poker machine money. ''You are not the first to ask me this question. My mother, a 92-year-old Baptist lady, would ask exactly the same question. It's a question I ask of myself,'' he said, as he explained that he believed, on balance, it was best for his club to run poker machines, with an emphasis on responsibility, rather than having the ''pubs and everyone else to belt the punters''.

Carter, a former league commissioner, agrees that AFL football, as a self-proclaimed leader in social responsibility, has to come to terms with its reliance on gambling sponsorships and poker machines.

''You are pointing to what I think is a massive inconsistency in the [football] industry. You watch the Brownlow and you are constantly plastered with live odds. They have finally cleaned up their act at the stadiums, where you were getting live odds and invitations to bet all the time,'' he said.

''We, as AFL clubs, don't like that. And none of the clubs like the industry's dependence on it at the moment. The pressure from outside is good. However, I've decided that the most constructive example to set, and the impact on the community, is to show you can run these businesses properly without extreme damage being done to people. That's where I've landed and I've convinced myself of that position, rightly or wrongly.''

Even though he is no doubt genuine when he says he is keen to see poker machine reforms, such as $1 or $2 maximum bets, the problem with Carter's argument is that he's portraying a competition that generated about $425 million last year in ticket sales, television rights, merchandise sales and sponsorships as a helpless victim being swept along on an avaricious corporate tide.

''The profits we get from the poker machines are critical to the club's survival,'' Carter said. But the reality is that AFL clubs are not broke, and powerless, no matter how much they talk about their hand-to-mouth existence. The idea that Geelong would somehow go out of business without poker machines is hard to reconcile.

Last year, AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou indirectly acknowledged the damage done by poker machines when he indicated that he would be happy to see clubs sell them. At the time, this had the distinct smell of media management of the issue. A year on, and with clubs still feeding the destructive habits of thousands, it has the same odour.

If the AFL is serious about its role as a community leader, it would find a way to cure its addiction to poker machines. And quickly

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/afl-clubs-talk-up-community-leadership-while-fostering-pokie-addiction-20131026-2w8qe.html#ixzz2itK9xLn7



Where the hell is Essendon even mentioned in this article. According to the Age if it is bad link it with Essendon. They are pathetic and I am ■■■■■■!

Who cares

So, it specifically focuses on Geelong yet they choose to include EFC'S photo?? This is seriously getting out of hand now. Their hate towards is clearly evident. Can we, as supporters try to stop this farce of a newspaper attacking us?

Another way to look at it (rather than being pissed) is the way Fairfax are losing money re sales etc, is that they could not afford the car, petrol and payment for a photographer to get down to Geelong.

[quote name=“miss ellie” post=“81716” timestamp=“1382847878”]Another way to look at it (rather than being pissed) is the way Fairfax are losing money re sales etc, is that they could not afford the car, petrol and payment for a photographer to get down to Geelong.[/quote]
Look out for the new ‘Fairfax Fun Centre’ including pokies, SP bookies and lots and lots of alcohol…coming to an Age office near you!

In fairness, they did spend 12 months out the front of Windy Hill, so it’s probably the go-to for all stock photography.

I’m sure they have a few.