An attempt to overturn Melton council’s decision to extend Essendon Football Club’s 29-year lease of Melton Country Club has failed.
The council voted unanimously in December for Essendon’s continued operation of Melton Country Club and its 89 poker machines until the end of 2047.
But councillor Steve Abboushi put forward a rescission motion following that meeting, in a bid to enable more community voices. His motion was voted down at last Monday’s meeting, the first of the year.
“You can only try your best to minimise any harm to the community,” Cr Aboushi told
Star Weekly last week. “I didn’t have the majority in the end, which is a bit disappointing.”
Cr Aboushi and three other councillors supported the motion.
According to the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Melton suffered $27.7 million in AFL club-sponsored pokies losses across three venues in 2017 and 2018.
Hawthorn has associations with WestWaters Hotel in Caroline Springs. Collingwood was associated with The Club, also in Caroline Springs, but last year announced it was divesting itself of poker machines across the west.
Alliance director Tim Costello last year urged councillors to refuse to extend Essendon’s lease.
“If the Melton councillors are brave and reject the officer recommendation to stay in the gambling business, it will have a powerful motivating impact on the reform movement,” Mr Costello said.
Melton Country Club is home to Melton RSL.
RSL secretary Kevin Murray, has said a loss of the club’s ongoing sponsorship, facilities and hospitality would be “detrimental to the Melton RSL”.
“The Melton RSL sub-branch is a relatively new, relatively small, sub-branch,” Mr Murray said last week. “Until our entry into an agreement with the Melton Country Club, we were not able to offer our members access to the usual facilities expected of an RSL sub-branch … a dining room, bar, function rooms and, in some instances, gaming rooms. The country club is now regarded as our home.”
Mr Murray said the Melton Country Club provided financial and practical support to the RSL and the broader community.
“The investment in us by the club is the single largest donation we receive each year,” he said.