In today’s Sunday Age, Cameron Houston has reported what most people in Melbourne already know: Melbourne’s AFL clubs make shirtloads of cash from pokies. Hawthorn heads a long list of clubs raking in millions from owning poker machines across the metropolis.
Where does NMFC fit in the mix? According to Houston:
“Financially embattled North Melbourne recorded the lowest take of any Victorian club, with pokie players losing $1.3 million over three years at the Arden Street social club, delivering a modest profit of $450,000.”
This is either really shit journalism or there’s something going on that I’m not aware of. Putting aside the unnecessary ‘financially embattled’ sideswipe, there is no Arden St social club. If there is, I’d be interested in Houston pointing it out to me. He may be referring to the pokies in the (soulless) Captain’s Bar at Docklands, but I’m pretty sure North didn’t get a cracker of that money, at least in 2008. Perhaps a cut from the odd beer purchased, but that’s about it (it’s certainly not listed in the 2008 NMFC Annual Report, but admittedly it doesn’t provide an exhaustive breakdown of the figures).
Secondly, and more importantly, North are the only Melbourne-based club that doesn’t own a single poker machine. Well, that’s if you take the of word of the CEO and Company Secretary, Eugene Arocca, who responded to a question on this very issue at the NMFC AGM. But hey, it’s only a legally consituted meeting. And what would Arocca know anyway?
Do some research Houston, and eat some humble Shinboner pie while you’re at it thanks.
Moving on – the real issue, largely ignored by the article, is the pokies dilemma faced by AFL clubs. Sure, they are a proven money spinner through economic booms and busts alike. But at what social cost?
We all know that pokies are placed in low socio-economic areas, preying on the dreams of the poor and lonely. Gambling addiction and further social isolation awaits them. But what about the revenue addiction of the AFL clubs? Sooner or later the likes of Nick Xenophon will start to make headway, and the pokies rivers of gold might go the way of the Murray-Darling.
Eugene Arocca is not a gambling man, not with his own money or with the future of his club. He takes the long view, that an investment in the community is the best way to go. Developing grass-roots community support takes time, commitment and resources, but the long-term dividends are unquestionable: a vibrant community, club and financial base. Investing in pokies is counter-productive to this, and Arocca seems like the only AFL Club CEO to know it.