The head of the Alliance for Gambling Reform has urged Melton council to knock back a pokies lease for Essendon Football Club.
Negotiations with the Bombers to extend their lease at the Melton Country Club – on council-owned land – stalled earlier this year when councillors declined to make a decision and asked for a report on the possibility of selling the property.
Essendon wanted to secure a four-year extension on the lease, which expires in February 2022, with the option of extending it for five years over five periods (in total 29 years).
Alliance director Tim Costello called on Melton councillors to vote the lease down.
“If Essendon won’t back off, then the Melton councillors should intervene and vote the pokies lease down when it comes to council,” he said.
“As an Essendon supporter, I am deeply disappointed the [football club] board …
is seeking to stay long term in the pokies industry rather than divesting like Collingwood and Melbourne have done.”
Melton council currently collects $287,000 annually from the lease of the Melton Country Club. If the lease with the Bombers is extended, it’s expected to bring in almost $300,000 in rental yield annually.
Melton recorded losses of more than $61 million in gaming in the past financial year, $5.6 million was lost at Melton Country Club’s 90 gaming machines in that time – double the losses from the previous year.
Melton council is calling for public submissions on its notice of intention to extend the lease with Essendon by 5pm, October 24.
Melton council legal and governance manager Christine Denyer said anyone who wanted to make a submission should contact the council.
“A decision will be taken after, and in consideration of, any and all submissions made,” Ms Denyer said.
Earlier this year, Collingwood Football Club left the pokies industry when it sold its Caroline Springs and Ringwood venues.
Essendon has been contacted for comment.