Gambling has always been glamorous.
In the good old days, you’d turn up to a muddy track and give your money to a man in a rumpled suit to watch horses being whipped to within an inch of their lives.
If your horse won, you’d take the money. And put it on another horse. If your horse lost, you paid the strange man in the bag of fruit. And lost your house. If you didn’t pay, your toes would be cut off: the epitome of old world glamour.
Then the popularity of pokies almost killed this sport of kings.
The suburban set couldn’t resist the allure of the technicolour carpet, free peanuts, and the Queen of the Nile. Of course, cunning Cleopatra would steal our money but we always came back for more – until the purveyors of this fine art decided we should be free to gamble wherever we choose: on a mobile phone, laptop, or tablet.
Welcome to the world of online gambling, where too much glamour is barely enough.
Imagine yourself sitting on a stained suede lounge, decked out in tracksuit and ugg boots, feet on the coffee table, placing bets on your mobile phone? Tres chic.
Actually, we don’t use the word ‘bets’ anymore.
It’s not ‘gambling’; it’s a ‘lifestyle’. These are the odds on Tom Waterhouse looking clean-cut in a Savile Row suit: 2-1.
Offering odds on anything from horse racing to whether House Husbands will win a Logie: Even.
Admitting eight per cent of Australians are problem gamblers: 1000-1.
Laughing at a Chaser parody with the tagline, “As a Waterhouse, I was born to help people lose their money”: 100,000-1.
According to a gushing News Ltd. article, “Waterhouse is also single-handedly engineering a cultural shift in the way Australians perceive gambling by rebranding the once-seedy online wagering industry as a de rigueur hobby for the aspirational set.”
The aspirationals are mainly virgins: tomwaterhouse.com has attracted 100,000 punters in two years and despite being a regular visitor to the house of God, Tom says moral issues don’t trouble him.
He told Fairfax, “I always say to people who bet with me, anything in excess is bad for you: shopping, eating, gambling”.
He’s right. I’m always reading about people who’ve lost their life savings through shopping or eating.
This must be why the $30 billion online gambling industry is targeting women – they’re trying to break our shopping addiction.
According to The Guardian, internet gambling is attracting more women than the traditionally male-dominated betting shops and casinos.
Online appeal: internet gambling is attracting more women than betting shops & casinos.
As cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schull says, “This isn’t like buying shoes. These are potent and powerful devices effective in shifting your inner mood and state”.
Her research found several incidents of women leaving their babies to die. Good to see gambling is an equal opportunity destroyer.
The Waterhouses must be so proud.
In the words of Tim Costello, “We are going to look back in some years and credit (Tom) Waterhouse with a whole new generation of gamblers.”
Or perhaps a whole new generation of losers.
One caller to Radio 2UE last week claimed online sites refuse to take bets from known ‘winners’.
So the only ones allowed to gamble are mug punters.
Tom Waterhouse (below) is certainly no mug. He spends half his week living at Crown Casino because of Victoria’s liberal gambling laws. With a baby on the way, he’ll soon spend more time in Sydney, as it ups the ante in the glamour stakes.
Tom Waterhouse: Glamourising gambling. Photo via The Daily Telegraph.
No, I’m not talking about the Spring Racing Carnival, with its “fillies on and off the field”, but that pillar of polite society, James Packer, who has been given first-stage approval to build a Crown Casino in Sydney.
The Daily Telegraph featured a fit Packer on the front page under the headline Casino Royale, likening him to another James – Bond. He wouldn’t have liked that – Crown doesn’t like to use the word ‘Casino’. Its ads speak of ‘entertainment’, ‘accommodation’, and ‘six star service’.
No mention of kids being left in the car park or gamblers shooting themselves.
It’s all about the glitz and the glamour. Just don’t scratch the shiny surface.
MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER
*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.