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Junior footy club president says Darebin’s pokies plan could force closure of community organisations

The Mayor of Darebin has stood by a controversial pokies action plan voted in last night, which would see sporting clubs banned from council property, like football ovals.

Sporting and community clubs that receive funding from pokies venues will be banned from applying for council grants under the Darebin council policy.

“I hate poker machines but this to me looks like sledge hammer stuff,” Neil Mitchell said.

Cr Susan Rennie, Mayor Darebin Council and board member of the Alliance for Gambling Reform said clubs can decide to accept donations derived from pokies revenue but it would not be financially beneficial.

“If clubs decide to accept funding from poker machines the amount of support that they might receive from council would go down by the same level, so they can do it if they want but it won’t be financially beneficial to them,” Cr Rennie said.

“Poker machine operators, if they’re a club, are required by law to put 8.3 per cent back into the community, but in fact what we see is most of that 8.3 per cent is claimed in terms of their operating expenses, electricity bills, staff, new carpet and things that have been claimed as a benefit to the community.”

Joe from the Reservoir Football Club called in and said this would cost them $20,000.

The Mayor disputed this figure.

“At most they might be receiving $1000, and that would be when they’re looking at the total pool of donations from local businesses.”

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Dennis McNiece, General Manager Northcote Park Football and Netball club, said it would have a big impact on their club.

“It might put us out of business,” Dennis said.

“We operate a venue in Moreland Council.

“It costs around $300,000 to put our footy and netball on the park each year.

“We make about $200,000 a year (from 85 poker machines).

“All the money we make goes back into that venue, Bill Lawry oval.”

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“That’s the problem I was trying to debate with the Mayor earlier, don’t support pokies, but don’t go in with a sledgehammer,” Neil said.

“You’re going to destroy places like that.

“All those junior teams, we want kids out there playing sport!”