Essendon not giving up on Melton pokies lease

Essendon CEO Xavier CampbellEssendon Football Club is planning to adopt a number of alternative revenue sources to reduce its dependency on revenue from poker machines.

For the short and medium term, however, the club has no intention of cutting its ties with the gaming industry.

Pokies revenue remains a valuable income stream for the club, according to Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell.

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The Bombers boss also believes gaming venues make significant contributions to community development, including employment.

“We need to realise that, yes, pokies are an element of these venues, but there’s much more to these venues than just gaming… there’s a range of community groups that use these venues… we have to be conscious of their broader impact,” he told The Age.

Mr Campbell added that, unlike many pokies clubs, the Bombers had employed an effective governance model for the operation of its gaming venues.

“We do not, and have no desire to, incentivise membership underpinned by gaming … we are not involved in loyalty programs,” he said.

He also emphasised Essendon’s resolve to pursue its 29-year lease to continue operating the Melton Country Club during the council meeting in February.

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Melton City Council officials upheld a motion to block the lease temporarily at a meeting earlier this year.

Essendon seeks this long-term deal in consonance with its plan of exiting gaming and maximising the value of the Melton Country Club.

“What the club does with that asset going forward – clearly we have a medium-term objective to continue to serve community groups,” Campbell said.

“What our longer-term gaming strategy looks like is something we continue to discuss and challenge.”

He indicated that a diversified revenue stream is the surest way to go for the sustainable financial success of the club.

“Make no mistake, our club is committed to investing in people and capability to challenge traditional thinking on what the footy club looks like moving forward,” he said.

Essendon’s stance on poker machines is at odds with the prevailing trend among AFL clubs.

Collingwood, Geelong, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs have all cashed out of the pokies game in the past year.

Several major clubs in Victoria continue to reap rewards from gaming revenue, however, including Carlton and Hawthorn.