Leading AFL clubs under attack in Victoria

Victorian councils have accused AFL clubs of allegedly exploiting loopholes in state gambling laws to withhold millions of dollars from poker machines.

Australia.- Victorian councils attacked leading Australian Football League (AFL) clubs for allegedly exploiting loopholes in state gambling laws to claw back millions of poker machines dollars earmarked for community support programs and charities.

In theory, all Victorian sports clubs with pokies licenses are forced to show that at least 8.33 percent of the net gaming machine revenue is used to deliver “community benefits.” The problem is that the current law contains a wide definition of what those “benefits” can be, which allows AFL clubs such as Carlton, Hawthorn and Collingwood to have money they spend on stadiums, catering and football staff count towards meeting their community service obligations.

At this point, Carlton Football Club is in hot water after the Hobsons Bay City Council in Melbourne’s western suburbs stepped up its campaign to force AFL clubs to hand over a share of their poker machine takings to local communities. The club did not fund gambling support programs in the local area, choosing instead to meet the community benefits test mostly by upgrading amenities such as spas, air conditioners, toilets and stands at its home ground, Ikon Park, which is located outside the municipality.

Hobsons Bay mayor Cr Peter Hemphill wrote to Victorian gaming minister Jane Garrett accusing Carlton FC of abusing its community benefits responsibilities.“I accept that the Carlton Football Club has a right to take its share of the gambling profits for use on whichever club activity or capital works program it sees fit to carry out,” reads the letter. “What I cannot accept is that it is ‘double dipping’ by taking the community’s share of the revenue for its own programs. Unless the government legislates to make it clear to all pokie venue operators that ‘community benefit’ funding is to be genuinely allocated to programs for the benefit of the community from which it is raised, the system will continue to be abused.”