AFL club Essendon have turned their back on the lucrative world of wagering, announcing they will not consider sponsorships from betting partners.
The Bombers are the latest in a number of AFL clubs to walk away from the industry, which spends tens of millions of dollars each year on advertising.
Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell said the move was aimed to curb the impact of gambling messages among members and particularly children and young adults.
“As an industry, we need to proactively monitor the way this message is delivered particularly given many of our fans are children,” he said.
North Melbourne have adopted the most radical stance of AFL clubs on betting and gaming, choosing against taking any gambling revenue, including from pokies venues.
The Kangaroos are joined by Collingwood, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs as signatories to Victoria’s Responsible Gambling Charter.
The four clubs have agreed not to sign commercial agreements with sports betting agencies and to implement a code of best practice at any gaming venues.
As a result of Essendon’s decision, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation has approached the Bombers to add their name to the list.
At least 10 AFL clubs list bookmakers or casinos as corporate partners.
Carlton, Fremantle, GWS Giants, Port Adelaide, Richmond and St Kilda have commercial deals with betting agencies.
Adelaide, Sydney and West Coast have sponsorships with local casinos.
The AFL itself also has a prominent sponsorship with a wagering company.
In recent years, the advertising spend by sports gambling companies has skyrocketed, with sports odds becoming prevalent particularly on television.
A Nielsen study indicated wagering companies spent around $50 million on TV, radio and print advertising in 2013.
With nearly 60,000 members, Essendon could have easily found a company willing to partner with the club.
Campbell said the Bombers weren’t casting judgment on other clubs or bookmakers that entered into commercial arrangements.
“We certainly respect the right of betting agencies to advertise in sport,” Campbell said.
“In forming this decision, we also took into consideration the feeling of our membership base who have expressed a sense of concern.
“This decision wasn’t made lightly, particularly with the revenue a wagering partner can deliver.”
Of the gambling industry’s large footprint on the AFL, wagering and betting organisations make up just one part.
It’s gaming – or pokies venues – that provides the biggest financial boost to many AFL clubs.
A Fairfax Media report from March stated the 10 Victorian AFL teams made around $100 million in combined revenue from gaming and poker machine venues.
Premiers Hawthorn have grown their revenue base enormously through their interest in gaming venues, with $18 million coming to the club through “gaming, bar and bistro” income in 2014.
The Kangaroos are the only Victorian AFL club without poker machine income, with their commercial ban policy extending to all forms of gambling.