Thursday, 8 January 2009

PokieAct v. Geelong Football Club

On Tuesday morning I was invited to speak on the Mornings programme on ABC 774. Waleed Aly was the host and Frank Costa who heads the Geelong Football Club was the other speaker. The segment was prompted by articles in the Melbourne press that morning about the rise in pokie gambling in suburban Melbourne; particularly the western suburbs. Click here to read the article as it appeared in The Australian.

Frank Costa should be applauded for agreeing to speak. As patron of Geelong's Horizon House for homeless children and other charitable works he has demonstrated a true commitment to good deeds. Both Eddie McGuire and Jeff Kennett were invited by the ABC but did not speak.

I asked Waleed to ask Mr Costa about the $8,279 spent on the Cat's interchange bench out of pokie proceeds and claimed as a community benefit by the GFC. Mr Costa's response focused on the need for the Cats to have the best facilities so they could remain competitive in the AFL. He also talked about player involvement in the community as if it were some sort of charity effort rather than plain good business.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I would have also liked to ask him to substantiate the community benefit of the $1,821 recently spent on the Executive Suite. To this I would have added the $3,376 spent on the Player's Walk, the $2,854 spent on the Fred Flanagan Room and the $10,096 spent on unspecified furniture.

Mr. Costa was asked about his level of comfort in building sporting success on the back of something as socially destructive as gambling. His response follows:
"If I was a benevolent dictator, which I'm not, I would probably ban cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling off the face of Australia because I think those three do a lot of harm as I go through society and I see the aftermath. However, because its a free country and we're allowed to do those things, then the best way to operate them is to control them as well as you can. And I know we were invited by a particular shire to come in and put in our operation similar to Club Cats in Geelong because they would prefer to have a sort of poker type operation conducted by a well organised run football club than a hotel. And I can understand that. And they say we have to have one in our area, we don't want more than one, we have to have one, we'd rather have a football club run it than a hotel. That made sense to me and I think we have something the public want."
Mr Costa was then cut off due to time limitations. You can listen to the whole 8 minute segment here:

This is an extraordinary answer and displays an absence of moral judgement by Mr Costa as well as an absence of candor.

Firstly, Mr. Costa believes that if a business is legal then he should be in it no matter the social consequences of the business.

Secondly, the Wyndham council opposed the Cat's application for a pokie club at Point Cooke. The Council submission was that what was said according to Mr Costa was not authorised and certainly not endorsed by Council. For Mr Costa to bring this up again is disingenuous at best. The 7 January 2009 issue of The Age reported upon the opposition of the Wyndham Council confirming that there should be no more pokies in the City.

With an operating profit of $1.4 million, Cats members are entitled to question the need for this further investment in pokies. The location of the Point Cook pokies next to kid's sporting fields and the intended presence of Geelong players at this pokie club sets an example that the Geelong Cats endorse pokie gambling as an acceptable lifestyle practice rather than the harmful product that research proves again and again.

The last question I would have liked to ask Mr. Costa is whether he will show any moral judgement at all and make his new Point Cooke pokie club kids free - or - will he embark upon the business-as-usual policy of luring families with children into his pokie club and encourage a new generation of pokie addicts?

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