Politics AFL NRL Australian Sports Gaming
AFL boss Andrew Demetriou has rejected claims the league is part of a coordinated campaign against the Government's push for mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire yesterday called the move a "footy tax" which would "hit football clubs right between the eyes".
Other high-profile club bosses including Jeff Kennett (Hawthorn) and David Smorgon (Bulldogs) also raised concerns about the effect pre-commitment would have on their club's finances.
Pre-commitment is opposed by Clubs Australia and the NRL, and reports emerged that both codes were set to run television advertisements against it during grand final week.
But Demetriou has scoffed at those claims, denying the AFL is part of any campaign.
He says the AFL has told the Government the reforms will do nothing to stop problem gambling and will only hurt clubs already struggling to make ends meet.
"I've never spoken to anybody from Clubs Australia. I've never spoken to the NRL about this issue," he said.
"The AFL is not involved in any campaign. We haven't got the ads ready to go.
"It's just been appalling the way this has been covered in every grab, that we've got some campaign ... we're about to launch with Clubs Australia.
"Please stop talking on our behalf. Just shut up. That will be a good help."
Mr Demetriou says the AFL "abhors" problem gambling and would support measures that effectively address the issue.
"We thinking we've got a very good track record of shifting attitudes and addressing some of these very serious issues," he said, citing racial vilification, the responsible use of alcohol and respect for women.
"We just don't think that this proposed legislation is the way to go."
Mr Demetriou says the AFL wants to work with independent MP Andrew Wilkie, independent senator Nick Xenophon and the Government to address the issue.
"We'd rather do it in a collaborative fashion. Not through campaigns. Not through ads. And not being drawn into something from some guy at Clubs Australia who I don't even know his name," he said.
The AFL boss says he has put a call in to Mr Wilkie - who has spearheaded the reform campaign - to discuss the issue.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin welcomed the news the AFL was not part of a campaign against the reforms.
"I think the AFL have demonstrated today that they agree with the Government that we have a duty of care to make sure we do everything possible to support people as they deal with poker machine addiction," she said.
Meanwhile, independent Senator Nick Xenophon has accused McGuire of backflipping on comments he made on mandatory pre-commitment for problem gamblers.
At the weekend McGuire said the reforms will slash the profits clubs rely on.
But Senator Xenophon says McGuire is contradicting comments he made in May last year.
"This is what Eddie McGuire said just over a year ago... about the need to help problem gamblers, where he said: 'Maybe the time has come, with a growing need for betting integrity, to introduce a compulsory card registering every bet, including cash bets'," Senator Xenophon said.
"He goes on to say he'd also allow problem gamblers to fix betting limits.
"Now that was in relation to sports betting. When you have a situation with poker machines as your Productivity Commission says are much more dangerous, much more problematic, then you need to ask what Eddie McGuire is actually saying now.
"This is an extraordinary campaign by the AFL when you consider that their own players, their own club members have been hit hard by problem gambling."
Senator Xenophon says the campaign against the poker machine reforms are "based on fear, not facts".
"I think Eddie McGuire needs to phone a friend. Better still, maybe he should phone a problem gambler and get the true facts on poker machine reform," the senator said.
"This campaign by the AFL clubs is completely misleading. Eddie McGuire really should be focusing perhaps on the football match this coming Saturday rather than on a very misleading campaign."
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