Claims some sporting clubs are targeting poor suburbs to increase pokies turnover
Lateline, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Reporter: Tom Iggulden
Sports clubs are coming under attack for sucking millions of dollars out of Australia's poorest areas, as big-name clubs extend their gaming operations outside their traditional suburbs.
TranscriptTONY JONES: Sports clubs, once the backbone of local communities, are under attack for sacking millions out of Australia's poorest areas. As the big name clubs extend gaming operations outside their traditional suburbs, some are questioning whether they can still claim to represent their local communities. Tom Iggulden reports.
TOM IGGULDEN: The Collingwood Magpies are probably Australia's most recognised football club.
The club is also a big hitter off the pitch, dragging in an estimated $28 million annually through its poker machines. According to new research published today in The Age newspaper. The club says that figure is too, high but regardless of the exact amount, much of it comes from gamblers outside the inner city suburb that gives the club its name. Colewood has hundreds of poker machines at four other less well to do suburbs spread around outer Melbourne.
MARK ZIRNSAK, INTERCHURCH GAMBLING TASKFORCE: Some of them are seeking to prey off new communities to basically build up their financial base.
TOM IGGULDEN: It's not just happening in Melbourne. The Penrith Panthers hail from western Sydney at the foot of the Blue Mountains. This is the clubhouse, a palace of gambling that dominates far western Sydney's entertainment scene. Like all New South Wales clubs, figures are hard to come by, but in 2004 it was estimated to be dragging in around $50 million from its pokies.
Lateline contacted several Panthers managers but none could confirm the figure. Over the last two years Panthers has also expanded to here in Cabramatta.
THANG NGO, FAIRFIELD CITY COUNCILLOR: We're the poorest suburbs, one of the poorest in all of Australia. We don't have that much disposable income. To see a so-called community club go into our area and basically take out more than we can afford to lose to support a venture that we didn't have a say in, we don't know anything about, kind of hurts.
TOM IGGULDEN: This is the Panthers' club here on the main street of Cabramatta. Penrith is 25 kilometres that way, just largely an immigrant suburb - Vietnamese, Chinese, Serbian - most of whom don't care much about rugby league much less the fortunes of the Penrith Panthers. Panthers also own clubs as far as away as Newcastle and Port Macquarie, 400 kilometres away.
THANG NGO: We spend more on pokie machines than any other community per population in Australia. So I suppose it's not a surprise if you want to make profit from the local community, but then to me, isn't that at odds with being a community club?
TOM IGGULDEN: The club argues it puts some of its profits back into the communities where it runs clubs, but that's not enough to win over Thang Ngo.
THANG NGO: Well, on average each pokey makes about $100,000 a year, and I estimate they would have about 300, 400 poker machines. We're talking about $3 million, $4 million each year from a community who can barely afford to lose that money.
TOM IGGULDEN: With the football season about to kick off, it's worth asking who the clubs really represent. Tom Iggulden, Lateline.