The Roar
The Roar


Pokie reform to kill clubs? Blame the one-armed bandit

25th April, 2011
3169 Reads

Jeff KennettJeff Kennett has come out with some premium-grade tripe before, but his claim that pokie regulations could “send some AFL clubs to the wall” is up there with his best. It’s deliberate conspiracy-peddling, a paranoid rant about a one-armed man who wants to slice up footy with a rogue prosthetic.

Backed up by the hired goons at Clubs Australia, the lobby group with the gall to stand up there and tell us what is and what isn’t Australian, his complaint is that proposed laws to curb problem gambling will cost AFL clubs millions.

Tens of millions, in fact, says Clubs Australia. Well, tens of millions collectively. Once you factor in all the adjustments. And if the projected slump in revenue transpires. Extrapolated over about five hundred years. During which all the customers die of plague.

I haven’t seen hysteria like this outside a Beatles documentary.

Clubs Australia are an extravagant joke of an organisation, prepared to dog-whistle till their lungs pop to protect their revenue stream.

It was obvious from the opening seconds of their anti-regulation ad just how directly they were aiming for the lowest common denominator.

Oh look, that guy’s wife is a caricatured screaming shrew. Cos, you know, women are really annoying and that. Geddit? Do ya geddit? Yeah, chicks eh? Crazy moll.

Then, Chumpface and Co. head down to the pokies to complain about governments telling us what to do.

“They’ll be telling us how many beers to have next,” scoffs Bruce. If you’re about to drive your mate home, then they probably should, Brucie.


If there’s one thing you can take away from the ad, it’s that the second anyone says ‘un-Australian’, you can ignore anything else that comes out of their mouth bar tapeworm. The term has less meaning than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Nobody but nobody has the right to dictate what being Australian means. National identity, and its place in our lives, is innately personal and individual.

So-called Australian values are the values of decent people. You’ll find them in every country on earth. You’ll also find dickheads, in droves. I’ve met plenty of them in Australia. The Hawthorn Footy Club could probably point you to a few.

Yet ‘un-Australian’ is trotted out to silence debate, to illegitimatise other views, to make opponents into enemies. Let’s stop by the pokies for a flutter. Let’s stop by Cronulla and rough up some Lebs. Lead the way, Brucie.

Clubs Australia have shown no hesitation in going for this most odious kind of populism. Now they’re following it up with a similar tactic – the claim reforms will kill footy clubs.

I mean, we all like football, right? We’re all ordinary, Aussie, non-un-Australian blokes who love footy. Imagine if these reforms came in. No more football for you.

And not just AFL, but leagues clubs too – New South Wales has the highest gambling revenue in the country. The Sisters of Mercy will have us all watching needlework contests at the Stitchodrome by the end of 2012.

“According to modelling by Clubs Australia,” reported The Age, “Hawthorn would have to spend $1.125 million to upgrade its 75 machines and adopt a mandatory pre-commitment system.”


“Mr Kennett said most AFL clubs could not afford the upgrade, and smaller clubs could be destroyed.”

Aside from the brilliant move of having the main lobby group against pokie reform doing the ‘modelling’, does anyone else find it less than plausible that the cost will be $15,000, per machine, to install a spending-limit system?

The joint that jailbroke my mate’s iPhone could probably do it for fifty bucks apiece. Or you could pay a kid to switch it off at the wall.

Whatever the expense of modifications, clubs will more than cover them in the first year alone. Hawthorn made over $4 million from pokies last year.

The reason they’re so jealously guarding their machines is precisely because of that insane profitability.

Set them up, pay one bored attendant to sit in the corner, and watch the grey money flow in.

In any case, AFL clubs are hardly the poor cousins of Australian society. They can probably afford a dampener on their earnings, more than suburban Alzheimers sufferers can afford to forget pouring away their life savings.

Abolishing the slave trade probably put a dent in a few bullion stacks as well, but no-one is suggesting that Luke Hodge find a ship and sail to the Hawks’ next Gabba match via Vanuatu.


Not to mention the fact that the Western Australian clubs don’t have pokies at all, in line with state law, yet appear to be curiously present (and solvent) in current competition. I could swear I saw Freo play just the other day.

As for clubs going to the wall, the AFL’s new rights deal is flirting with the billion-dollar mark. The league is spending tens of millions setting up new franchises, stadia, and fixturing arrangements.

There’s as much likelihood they’ll let a club fail in the next few years as there is of Kennett re-opening Fitzroy High School.

“For government to keep changing the rules after people have entered into arrangements, in good faith, is unacceptable procedure,” said the former Premier.

Yes, mate. We also once had an arrangement, in good faith, that I could get onto a train and a guy would sell me a ticket, rather than four of them tackling me to the ground and abusing me for being a criminal.

Guess where that went?

And is it any coincidence that Kennett is still a director at Amtech, a company that services poker machines? The thousands of them lining Crown Casino are thanks largely to the same man.

The whole thing stinks like a midsummer fish market. The Clubs Australia premise is a fraud. So is the hackneyed image of Aussie blokeship that they’re trying to invoke.


It’s perfectly symbolised by the fact that Tug Dumbly, the actor who plays the more buffoonish of the characters, is actually one of Australia’s very best poets and comedic performers.

He’s a fierce intellect who has spent years savaging companies and attitudes like those he’s now the grease-smeared face of.

But a self-employed entertainer has to eat, even if it is six hash browns, and it doesn’t take much to slip the bloke mask on. Ask the blokes who do it every day.

If you’ve given a second of thought to Kennett’s Nostradamus act, get real. Imagine this scene for a minute. The Hawks’ accountant tells them the reforms have passed Parliament, and they’re going to have to spend a mil to keep the pokies running next year.

What do you think Kennett would say?

“Well… ok fellers, I guess we’d better pack it in, hey? We’ve had a good run. Got ten premierships, somehow managed to make poo-wee stripes look respectable… yeah, as my old mate Gough said, it’s time. Let’s call it a day.”

Rubbish. I know it, Andew Demetriou knows it, and Jeff Kennett knows it better than anyone.

Restrictions on pokies are not going to bring any clubs down.


But maybe they’ll help them survive with a little more dignity.