The Melton Council has approved a lease extension for poker machines at the Melton Country Club. The lease gives authority to the AFL club Essendon to continue the operation of their poker machines for the next 29-years. The council voted for an extension without any opposition at last week’s meeting, allowing the club to run 89 of its poker machines until the end of 2047.
However, the future path doesn’t look as smooth for Essendon because Cr Steve Abboushi, who was not present at last week’s meeting, has brought a new rescission motion in the council which could repeal the lease extension resolution. It would resume the debate on the lease extension in the council when the council meets next in February. However, the motion will have to be backed by another council member when the meeting begins.
Abboushi contested the decision of the council saying that that it needs to hear all sides, not just Essendon. He added that he would consider these matters open-mindedly but suggest that allowing a 29-year lease extension on a facility owned by the council without considering all the issues it could raise is “quite serious.” He also added that the council did not debate on this issue on Monday (during its meeting) and he “can’t understand why.”
Tim Costello, gambling reform advocate also denounced the council’s decision saying that the City of Melton, unlike the community, has a lot of cash already and it doesn’t need $294,000 per year from a pokies venue by Essendon. Costello said that Melton is one of the fastest growing Australian council, but it already suffers from a huge social disadvantage, owing to the crime figures, mortgage stress and family violence issues.
He noted that the council has a moral obligation to not create more problems in the community by allowing the pokies to continue their operations and reminded the council of its own 2017 Municipal Health Plan and enact one of their objectives to reduce the harm caused by gambling.
The Melton Country Club records the lowest losses amongst seven pokies venues in the city, amounting to $5.685 million in 2017-18. However, these venues collectively extracted over 67.8 million dollars from gamblers from gamblers between October 2017 and October 2018. The current lease of the club will expire in February 2022.
Costello suggests that the pokies venue should be stripped of the area and the country club should be restructured into an RSL and bowling club. He further noted that television advertising and children’s addiction to screens is making the Australian community consider the effects of gambling and they are looking up to the elected representatives to do something about it.