North Melbourne is the only Victorian AFL club without pokies and a reliance on gambling revenue but CEO Carl Dilena believes other clubs could soon follow its lead.
The Roos hard-line stance stems from a sense of community and speaks volumes about the club’s core values. It has also attracted socially aware companies, like highly regarded electricity provider Powershop, to jump on board as sponsors.
“The AFL is sitting with a lot of clubs with revenue generated from pokies and that probably eases the burden for the AFL overall in terms of the finances of the entire competition,” Dilena told theHerald Sun’sGrant Baker.
North hasn’t had gaming machines since 2008 while Essendon, Hawthorn, Geelong, St Kilda, Richmond, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Collingwood share about $90 million in pokies revenue each year.
“There certainly were (opportunities to get back in) — there were some business people a bit frustrated that we wouldn’t go into them,” Dilena added.
While acknowledging it would be a “real challenge”, the North boss said the AFL’s equalisation measures could eliminate the AFL’s need for the cash stream that has been linked to social and family harm.
“If you can get the inflation in the industry under control, it takes the pressure off generating massive amounts of new revenue,” Dilena said.
“So there is an indirect tool in there for them to do it, and to achieve it, and I think the clubs have bought into the concept of trying to get the club structure of the industry under control.”
As for North’s ability to prosper without gambling revenue, Dilena put it down to a “ruthless efficiency” when running the business.
“We don’t spend any money (just because) it’s nice to spend — we reference every dollar back to return on strategic objectives or return on investment,” he said.
Debt has been reduced from $8m in 2007 to $1.5m and the Roos have banked four consecutive profits while upping their investment in their Football Department..
Dilena said claims that North has only been able to rid itself of pokies due to handouts from the AFL were “illogical”.
“There are other clubs who get the same if not more than us (from the AFL) who do have gaming, so that refutes that argument straight away,” he said.
“And secondly, the money that we do get is really compensating paying off the mortgage at Etihad Stadium to a large degree — and it actually doesn’t go far enough to compensate for the inequities.”