SEVERE WX : Freeze Watch View Alerts
CLOSINGS: View Closings

What Sydney Opera House feud says about Australia's gambling obsession

A national debate is raging in Australia over an advertisement for a horse race being projected on the side ...

Posted: Oct 8, 2018 3:10 PM
Updated: Oct 8, 2018 3:10 PM

A national debate is raging in Australia over an advertisement for a horse race being projected on the side of one of Australia's most recognized landmarks, the Sydney Opera House.

Critics say it will cheapen the UNESCO World Heritage site but, behind the furor, deeper questions are being raised over the power of the pervasive, multibillion-dollar gambling industry in Australia.

Amusements and gaming

Animals

Arts and entertainment

Australia

Classical music

Continents and regions

Gambling

Horses

Leisure and lifestyle

Life forms

Mammals

Music

Music and dance

Musical styles

New South Wales

Oceania

Opera

Sydney

Casinos

Equestrian sports

Horse racing

Sports and recreation

"We know that the US blind spot is guns. What Australians now have woken up to ... is our blind spot is captured by gambling interests," World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Rev. Tim Costello, a longtime anti-gambling campaigner, told CNN.

Australians are some of the most prolific gamblers in the world. In 2016, Australians lost more money per person -- an average of US $990 -- than people from any other developed country. Singapore, the runner-up, lost only $650 per person in comparison.

The Everest Cup horse race is being held for only the second time in 2018 and has the largest prize pool for a "turf race" in Australia, coming in at $9.2 million (A$13 million).

But Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V'landys said in a statement the advertisement would have nothing to do with gambling, adding that racing had been "part of Australia's fabric of society since colonization."

"It was first conducted to lift the morale of Australia's first workforce. Like it or not it's in our DNA," he said.

'Absolute sacrilege'

The uproar began when local media in Sydney ran stories on Friday questioning why the Opera House has refused permission for the race to be advertised.

Controversial Sydney radio host Alan Jones conducted a fiery interview with Opera House Trust Chief Executive Louise Herron, calling for her to be fired over the decision. "Who the hell do you think you are?" she said to him. "You don't own the Opera House, we own it,"

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian ordered the Opera House on Friday to accept a request by Racing NSW to advertise the upcoming Everest Cup horse race on its iconic sails.

It will now light up on Tuesday night, ahead of the race on October 13.

Both Berejiklian and Racing NSW said the version that would be splashed on the side of the Opera House would be "much toned down" from the original, with no Everest Cup logo and no horses' names.

She claimed that the Everest Cup in 2017 had been broadcast to 60 million people around the world and was an important drawing card for Sydney.

It won't be the first time the building has been lit up for a sporting event either -- it has previously been illuminated for Australian events such as the Ashes cricket series and the Rugby World Cup.

But as of Monday afternoon, more than 170,000 people had signed a Change.org petition in support of the original decision by the Opera House to deny permission to "Alan Jones and his gambling mates at Racing NSW."

"Let's remind Alan that the Opera House truly does belong to everyone, by supporting Louise Herron's staunch defense of one of our City and Country's few instantly recognizable heritage landmarks," the petition said.

The Sydney Morning Herald, one of Australia's most widely read publications, wrote in an editorial that to advertise a horse race on the Opera House would "tarnish (its) unique image."

"Similarly, we are reluctant to project advertising on to state Parliament House or St Andrew's Cathedral. Sure it would make money but it would destroy those buildings' symbolic value," the editorial read.

World Vision Australia's Costello said advertising a horse race on the side of the Opera House was "absolute sacrilege."

"(I think) Australia is having a national psychic vomit when they realized their icon had been handed over to the greediest, most destructive industry in the nation," he said.

CNN contacted the NSW Premier's office but was referred to her media appearances.

Billion dollar industry

Gambling is a multibillion-dollar industry in Australia, but has negative consequences for tens of thousands of Australians who experience addiction problems with the industry.

According to the latest Australian Gambling Statistics, the total gambling expenditure in Australia in the 2016-2017 financial year was $16.7 billion (A$23.7 billion)

That's the equivalent of every adult citizen in Australia spending $881.61 (A$1,251) every year.

A report by Australia's productivity commission found 115,000 people in the country were considered "problem gamblers," just under one in every 200 people across the entire country. In total, 280,000 people were considered at risk.

On top of the racing and casino revenue, one of the largest and most valuable gambling segments is the poker machine (also known as fruit machine or slot machine) industry.

There are almost 200,000 of the flashy, easily accessible machines across Australia, almost one for every 100 people. In some states, you can put up to $5,284 (A$7,500) into a machine in one sitting.

"Over 400 Australians take their lives every year, just from (poker machines.) I do the funerals of many of them, far more than gun deaths," Costello told CNN.

Gambling donations

NSW Premier Berejiklian wasn't the only peerson who came out strongly in favor of the Opera House being used to advertise the upcoming horse race.

Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Prime Minster Scott Morrison said he didn't see what opponents of the plan were being so "precious" about.

"This is one of the biggest events of the year. Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?" Morrison told journalists.

Australian politicians have a long history of supporting the gambling industry and avoiding efforts to reform. In 2012, then-prime minister Julia Gillard broke her agreement with a minority partner over attempts to put strict limits on how much gamblers could spend at poker machines.

Costello said Australia's state governments have been heavily reliant on revenue from gambling for years, describing it as their "dirty little secret."

Analysis by Australian academics found that on top of the revenue from gaming, the gambling industry had also given more than A$1 million in donations to Australian political parties during the last federal election year.

"They solved their revenue problems at massive social cost. Australians like to think we are baptized into gambling with eucalyptus oil at birth, but it's not the case," Costello said.

Huntsville
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 45°
Florence
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 44°
Fayetteville
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Scottsboro
Few Clouds
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 45°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 162720

Reported Deaths: 2735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23940385
Mobile17123319
Tuscaloosa10602141
Montgomery10503199
Madison955798
Shelby760565
Baldwin676869
Lee664965
Calhoun476562
Marshall447451
Etowah441952
Morgan430835
Houston423934
DeKalb355429
Elmore327858
St. Clair311342
Limestone297031
Walker287493
Talladega276437
Cullman266525
Lauderdale240543
Jackson225317
Autauga212631
Colbert210232
Franklin209432
Blount200925
Russell19833
Chilton192332
Dallas189227
Dale184952
Coffee183611
Covington177329
Escambia175831
Clarke138717
Chambers138047
Tallapoosa137287
Pike136414
Marion110931
Barbour10559
Marengo104622
Butler101941
Winston94713
Geneva9427
Pickens89018
Lawrence88533
Bibb86115
Randolph84616
Hale78130
Cherokee76414
Clay76312
Washington75812
Henry7316
Lowndes72128
Monroe66310
Bullock65117
Crenshaw61230
Fayette59913
Perry5996
Cleburne5799
Conecuh57213
Wilcox57112
Macon54320
Lamar5235
Sumter48621
Choctaw39512
Greene34516
Coosa2173
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 256880

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby37335570
Davidson32679345
Knox1319395
Rutherford12406115
Hamilton12175112
Williamson738756
Sumner6371113
Wilson492063
Putnam461059
Montgomery438960
Out of TN427836
Sullivan398150
Madison391880
Washington376753
Bradley370323
Blount351536
Sevier349722
Maury345839
Robertson268143
Hamblen254750
Tipton246623
Dyer233638
Unassigned22306
Gibson222749
Coffee198726
Hardeman193133
Greene187654
Obion185523
Anderson181314
Bedford178920
Trousdale17899
Dickson176319
Fayette175925
McMinn171238
Lawrence170720
Loudon169012
Cumberland166927
Carter166636
Wayne16197
Weakley161026
Jefferson160424
Monroe152129
Warren150711
Lauderdale149517
Henderson144126
Hardin143522
Roane14208
Macon138125
Franklin133623
Haywood132028
Hawkins127228
Overton126120
White125214
Johnson11927
Marshall119011
Carroll116926
Cocke115014
McNairy115029
Rhea114119
Campbell110413
Cheatham109712
Bledsoe10344
Smith103214
Giles100738
Lake9904
Lincoln9453
Fentress94411
Crockett90722
Henry83712
Hickman82915
Marion81210
DeKalb78617
Chester74115
Decatur67911
Grainger6364
Grundy58712
Union5554
Claiborne5437
Polk54013
Unicoi4775
Jackson4716
Humphreys4654
Morgan4587
Lewis4425
Benton43410
Cannon4322
Houston43117
Clay41815
Scott4085
Sequatchie3632
Stewart34811
Perry3435
Meigs3376
Pickett2879
Moore2832
Van Buren2122
Hancock1253

Community Events