MELBOURNE has walked away from sponsorships with sports betting companies and will commit to embedding responsible gambling practices in its venues.

The club became the ninth in the AFL to sign the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s responsible gambling charter. The A-League’s Melbourne Victory, the Melbourne Stars and Renegades from the Big Bash League and more than 150 local sporting clubs from across the state have also signed the charter.

Melbourne chief executive Peter Jackson, who was a member of the inaugural board for the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, before joining the red and blue, said it was “an important day for the club”.

“I learned a fair bit about responsible gambling during those two years – and things I didn’t know about, as an average citizen,” he said.

“I’m not a wowser and do like a small ten dollar bet on the horses from time to time … but the market place is changing and it worries me as a parent and it worries me as a CEO of a football club.

“I’ve seen it all on television – the saturation and advertising of betting agencies and with the correlation and uptake of smart phones, it’s made betting very, very accessible.”

Jackson said Melbourne had a responsibility to be involved in the charter.

“Clearly, when you look at the advertising, the target audience is 18 to 39 year-old males and they’ve become the new risk category for gambling and target marketing. That worries me as an older parent and it should worry all parents,” he said.

“That 18 to 39 year-old male is our own constituency – that’s our club constituency and the AFL’s constituency. The 18 to 39 year olds play our game and follow our clubs and I think it’s important we do the right thing by that.

Jackson acknowledged that it was “a fact of life” that gaming venues were important to Melbourne and other AFL clubs, in terms of financial stability and the ability to compete against the bigger clubs. 

“Our obligation there is to absolutely ensure that we adopt best practice and proper and responsible gambling,” he said.

“If we do that, we can say that we’re doing the right thing by those people.”

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation chief executive Serge Sardo said charter is a key element of the foundation’s sporting clubs program.

“We are working with more than 160 clubs across the state at both the elite and local sporting level to counter the growing culture of gambling in sport,” he said.

“Gambling is changing the way young people experience sport, but we stand with the clubs who want to send the message that the game is exciting enough, without having a bet.

Sardo said the sporting clubs program is about maintaining a distinct separation between gambling and sporting activities.

“Clubs who sign our charter refrain from displaying sports betting or gambling-related signage in or around the club,” he said.

“The charter requires clubs to work with the foundation’s Gambler's Help venue support program, which helps train venue staff to identify and support people who might be having problems with gambling,” he said.

The charter also requires clubs to:

  • nominate champions to promote responsible gambling to other players and members
  • provide education sessions about gambling issues to players and interested club members
  • promote Gambler’s Help services to players, members and visitors.