WHILE Alistair Clarkson’s men push for a fourth consecutive AFL Premiership on the field, the Hawthorn treasury is reaping the benefits behind the scenes.
Recent figures from the Victorian Commission for Gambling Liquor Regulation confirmed that the Hawks, currently top of the 2016 AFL ladder, are pulling in more revenue from poker machines than any other Victorian club.
The Glenferrie outfit pocketed $20 million in the last financial year from pokies at Mulgrave’s Vegas at Waverley Gardens and the West Water Hotel in Caroline Springs.
Carlton’s four gaming venues generated $16.9m, while Collingwood, Essendon and Melbourne each profited to the tune of $10m.
The report showed that AFL clubs raked in almost $90m all told from gaming revenue, despite more than half of Geelong’s 180 machines being out of action due to ongoing renovations at Kardinia Park.
Of the 10 Victorian-based sides in Australia’s premier football league, only North Melbourne doesn’t have any stake in the pokies business.
St. Kilda opened new gaming facilities in Moorabbin earlier this year, while the Collingwood-owned Coach and Horses Hotel in Ringwood is planning to add 10 new machines.
The VCGLR statistics have heightened concerns over the growing gambling culture within Australian sport, and with the supposed over-reliance of AFL clubs on pokies profits.
Reverend Tom Costello, a key member of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, has urged fans to boycott club pokies and demand change.
“If you are a member of a football club, you can be the part of the solution,” Costello told the Herald Sun.
“Get on your smart phone right now and email your club to tell them that you love footy, but you hate pokies.
“And make sure you CC the AFL bosses in.
“Club presidents and AFL bosses want fans to be passive.
“But ultimately it is the people’s game, and this should be the people’s call.”
Among Costello’s most vocal allies are Canberra kingmakers Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon, who said recently that the AFL would “alienate millions of loyal fans” if it didn’t crack down on club-owned pokies parlours.
Along with his push for nationwide pokies reform, Senator Xenophon is also seeking to enforce tighter regulation on betting advertisements during live sports broadcasts.