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LIFE’S A GLAMOROUS GAMBLE

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 ...

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45 Comments

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Julie

    Totally agree, Tracey.The lack of any sense of moral responsibility by Packer and Waterhouse is appalling, and galling. And the collusion by mainstream tv programs- particularly breakfast programs is a real concern. This is as insidious as cigarette advertising was back in the 70s and just as dangerous. I’ve just seen Lisa Wilkinson interviewing the bloke who was jailed for ripping people off on Wall Street while he sat there talking about the ‘central part of his success’ as ethical sales. For goodness sake. Self delusion and narcissism on national television are alive and well with all of these blokes.

    • Reply October 30, 2012

      Susan Taylor

      You’ve hit the nail on the head again Tracey – had seen just about enough of these adds the other day and horrified at just how much is going into promoting them – slick, clean and glamorous – fakes – ENOUGH already

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    debbiep

    Glad to know that God took the overwhelming task to create the whole amazing universe, creat life, give man an amazing brain – all so many of his followers could sit and gamble their lives away.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Kristy

    This is an important conversation to have – I think that there is 3 issues here. The first is gambling addiction. The second is constant advertising. Thirdly, I think – hopefully – that the overt greed of Tom Waterhouse and his attempt at the sanitisation of gambling will amount to over-saturation and eventually some kind of backlash. We just have to keep the conversation going!

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    charly lindsay

    We need to stop denying that addiction is an illness! It may not be as visible as the flu, but it is far more damaging! It is a mental illness that tears families apart and one we are allowing into our lounge rooms.

    The way we advertise gambling in this country is on par with advertising the availability of heroin, “ready and packed for you to shoot up at home with your kids”.

    A gambling addict has just as many problems as the drug or alcohol addict, and they both need help. Both are trying to escape their reality, one is just more accepted by society, but only for so long. Only until the gambling becomes too much and they can’t stop so to get it back they rob a pub, leave their child unattended in a car, or give up and take take their own lives.

    Can Tom Waterhouse give me odds on that? Because we all know it is far too common an end!

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Tracey

    Yes, I agree. Media Watch did a very good job last night of exposing the Waterhouse-as-sporting-commentator scam. We have to watch out for this in years to come – content which is really advertising.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Jay

    My girlfriend often buys a pair of $200 to $400 shoes which “effective in shift her inner mood and state”.

    How is this different from me spending $200 at the races once a month?

    • Reply October 30, 2012

      Lucille

      Jay, your girlfriend still has her shoes. Do you still have your $200 plus? She needs to gamble on another boyfriend.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Blueblood

    Jay, when your girlfriend starts hiding the fact that she bought the shoes which she cannot afford, or going without food or paying the rent/mortgage to buy shoes then you will know she has a problem. It’s not unheard of.

    It’s when people are hiding their gambling spending and going without food or paying the bills and neglecting their family that gambling is a problem. If you can afford $200 a month gambling, good for you, but don’t equate it with someone who has a serious gambling problem. It’s totally different, more like social drinking versus alcoholism.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    vegit

    If Tom Waterhouse is a regular visitor to the house of God, he must be a believer of God. He must then also believe in a Devil. As both go together ?

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Lucille

    Thanks Tracey. I was wondering when these ubiquitous commercials would be brought to attention. Media Watch was very revealing as is your Hoopla piece. I think, like smoking and drinking commercials these ads should be banned. I get so mad when I see the American actor spruking the so-called positives and vow not to support any new movies in which he appears.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    jonah

    Bollocks. Gambling is an interest, like any other. We’re all responsible for our actions and don’t need the hectoring, oversight of “concerned” big govt protecting us from ourselves. For god’s sake, read some Thomas Jefferson. You girls want to run the world like a household. Power is dangerous. Liberty is an aphrodisiac.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    jonah

    Governments have no business protecting people from themselves

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Jay

    Lucille, she has never worn that pair of shoes again – it just sits with the other 80 pairs in her cupboard. Not exactly sure what point you were trying to make.

    And Blueblood – over 95% of the Australian population gamble with no adverse effects, the vast majority having a bet on the horses once or twice a year (MEL Cup), a few scratchies or Lotto tickets here and there, or a flutter on the pokies every now and then. Should all of these people be denied this intermittent enjoyment because a tiny minority can’t control their impulses?

    Where do we draw the line? A totalitarian paradigm where nobody is allowed to bet, on anything, ever?

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Caroline B

    I’m with Kristy – & I’m sick of seeing gambling now being promoted as some sort of ‘glamour lifestlye choice’. I’ve known several problem gamblers in my time & this could not be further from the reality.

    It’s one thing having an occastional day at the races, or the odd friendly bet or poker night with your friends where at least one of you will end up with the money – quite another to have intrusive online gambling pop-ups on your phone & gambling dressed up as ‘aspirational’ or ‘entertainment’ all over the TV. And I hate having slimy Tom Waterhouse’s spruiking his tawdry business as legitmate ‘sports commentary’ when I’m trying to watch a game!

    It’s insidious – alcoholism or cigarette addiction could also be described as a ‘lifestyle’ but we no longer see ads for either on TV. Addictive gambling is just as destructive & while no one’s saying ban it as an activity, gambling advertising & product placement have no place on TV – or my or my children’s mobile phones.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Blueblood

    Bookmakers are not in business to lose money, they try to ensure that most people lose most of the time, that’s how they win. Poker machines work the same way. And casinos. Gamblers fund the lifestyle.

    Jay, the government has restricted advertising for other addictive products, why allow advertising for gambling. Maybe that’s where the line could be drawn.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Mary

    I think it should be banned from advertising as is smoking and drinking. It should NEVER be advertised during football, cricket or any major sporting event where there are children watching.
    If you want to place bets on line and want to know who is offering what, you can easily find out the info by googling it.
    We can’t blame Tom for gambling problems, they were around before him, but we don’t need to make it easier for the next generation to end up problem gamblers by shoving it in their faces.

    • Reply October 30, 2012

      Knowerzark

      Mary, Caroline, alcohol advertising isn’t banned from tv, last time I checked. At least not in Queensland…or am I missing something? And fyi, while there will always be problem gamblers, but, in its various forms, ‘the punt’ provides entertainment and income for a lot of people. Perhaps we should stop our handwringing long enough to look at the world honestly and objectively…speaking as someone who has backed the winners of the 3 out of the last 4 major races in the spring carnival.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Tracey

    Terrific comments. It’s interesting talking to Americans about this. They are shocked by the amount of gambling advertising in Oz – esp during sporting matches.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Kate

    I just said to my husband last night that I can’t wait for the Merv/Unibet (?) ad to be banned from tv. I can’t believe they are allowed to advertise. That ad space could be used for a charity or something worthwhile.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Rhoda

    I worry a bit about a nephew who is only just 20 and gambling online. I don’t know that he is but I suspect he is addicted. He bets on the races every weekend as well. He only has his job – nothing much else. The advertising encourages it – amongst all ages. That’s the thing.

    I myself like to have a bet on the Melbourne Cup if I can but that’s about it. Hate the pokies with passion – deadly boring.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Caramello

    I remember when I was growing up in the 1960′s and 1970′s, I would sometimes see the punters travelling by train to the Canterbury track on the ‘racecourse special’. The punters would be mostly men wearing pork pie hats, smoking and studying the form guide. It never struck me as a glamourous activity, it had an air of desperation.

    It is wrong that our television networks have embraced the gambling industry as mainstream and are encouraging the notion that it just part of everyday life,it isn’t. Bookmakers belong at the races and in the sporting pages not in our living rooms. It can be fun to have a flutter, however, it can also lead to serious addiction.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Nat

    What worries more is that it is implied that unless you are betting on it, you aren’t part of the action. I’m really disturbed by the odd updates at half time in the footy. I am ok with gambling, within your limits. It’s very much marketing to young men- and the availability of it whenever and wherever is a problem- it used to be a trip to the tab, to the newsagent to get scratchies and lotto.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Lost Earthling

    I don’t know why he is regarded as part of racing royalty, his father was part of the Fine Cotton rin-in and was banned from bookmaking for 15 years, hardly the work of a king. Tom Waterhouse is only building up his online betting agency so he can sell it to overseas investors and make a motza of money. He doesn’t care about anything but the money.

    If you want to know if someone has a gambling problem just ask them if they could walk away from it. If they tell you they could give up at any time then they are an gambling addict, a delusional addict. Companies don’t spend over $100 million dollars building a casino if they think there is a chance of losing money.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    ro.watson

    Strange jargon of “odds” and “evens” which sells~ externalising,internalising and transforming the bitter-sweets…

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Rusty Hoe

    Having lived the reality of problem gambling as a child I have a real problem with this push to glamorise gambling especially when combined with the ease of access. I watched what it did to my family, we lost our home, our family broke down and we didn’t even have food on the table at times. That was back in the 80′s when my father would have to physically go to the TAB or see the Bookies down at the track. I hate to think what would have happened had he never need to leave the house to gamble.It was a lifestyle back then too. Sad, frantic men with their racing guides, stinking of cigarette smoke and beer, all chasing the next big win that rarely eventuated and if it did was gone in the next series of bets. They congregated in the pub and the TAB, Knew the Bookies on a first name basis, hell they came to our house for tea and gave me 50cent coins and taught me about trifectas. It makes my skin crawl remembering it now. With this new marketing of gambling that seedy side I recall is hidden under a sanitised and glamourised computer network, but it still exists, it’s just not quite as visible. More options to bet, easier options to bet, easier ways to screw over your life and the lives of those around you. And as Media Watch pointed out insinuated in our life in so many ways both subtle and overt, until it becomes totally normalised and in many ways an aspirational lifestyle.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Stacey

    There has to be a better way to balance the needs of those in the industry (many members of my immediate and extended family are counted in this number) and the needs of the broken, overwhelmingly disadvantaged souls it sucks the life from. The fact that 92% of Australian’s aren’t problem gamblers does not mean that the other 8% are not significant. They are hugely significant, particularly to the likes of Tom Waterhouse. They provide 25% of his profits. A full quarter. What kind of person profiteers from this brokenness, claims to be Christian yet has no interest in counting the the cost to family, life and community generated by gambling? The conflict of interest inherent in the relationship between gambling, tax revenue and government policy should really make decent people feel outraged but instead we hear the same old lines from the usual mouth breathers about how they like a punt on a Saturday and how any change at all is going to spoil their funsies.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Stacey

    As for ‘glamour’ I can think of nothing less glamorous in the entire world than the Australian racing industry. You can stick a bogan in an Armani suit but he’s still the most boring person you’ve ever met. Having spent 30+ years growing up in race clubs and many many race days in various VIP areas, I’ve never met an interesting person whilst watching a horse carrying a small colorful man run in a pointless circle.

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Nagging Suspicion

    Once upon a time the punters arrived at the track on trains, buses and on foot. They entered via the public entrance and gambled on the nags. The owners and trainers, on the other hand, arrived in Rollers and Bentleys and Mercedes and entered via the member’s entrance. And at the end of the day, the punters left via the public exit and hopped on trains, buses, or hoofed it on foot, while the owners and trainers left via the members exit and drove off in their fancy cars.

    Punters are just brainwashed mugs, fools easily separated from their money. And it’s also a fool who says governments shouldn’t regulate addictive behaviour. These people are more blinkered than the thoroughbreds!

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    William Marshall

    Great Piece, Tracey! except online gambling aps are not a hobby, it is crack for gambling addicts nothing more, and we should be rid of it!

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Tony W

    “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.”

    That’s a helluva leap Tracey! You need a bit more evidence than one disgruntled punter on talkback radio before you start making claims like that.

    As a winning punter myself (20 years of modest but consistent income from AFL match betting) I have never been refused a bet. Nor I suspect has entrepreneur David Walsh, who built Hobart’s $75 million MONA entirely from the proceeds of gambling.

    Bookmakers, on-line or otherwise, are not in the business of refusing bets. By all means let’s discuss the societal costs of all-pervasive gambling culture, but let’s not make wild unsubstantiated claims on the say so of one “mug punter” on talkback radio.

    More importantly, let’s not conflate on-line betting agencies with poker machine venues, which as ‘Anonymous’ clearly demonstrates, do indeed target and encourage the vulnerable – often with tragic results.

    And let’s not pretend Waterhouse’s attempts to glamorize sports betting, in order to appeal to a more affluent clientele, are in any way comparable to the sophisticated mind control techniques at work in poker machines, designed to suspend the critical faculties of the less intelligent and less worldly amongst us.

    And let’s not pretend there is any comparison between saturation advertising and these direct interferences with human brain functioning – including amongst other things, carefully researched perfumes released at regular intervals to induce a state of relaxation and well-being. Babies do not die in cars because their mothers are glued to Tom Waterhouse advertisements.

    This is an entertaining piece in Tracey’s usual acerbic style, but it falls into the trap of bundling on-line betting and poker machines together under the one heading of “problem gambling”. That’s exactly what Clubs Australia wants! It’s the principal reason pokie reform has stalled – by deflecting attention from the REAL problem, and furthering the ludicrous argument that problem gamblers will simply migrate to on-line betting.

    Certainly there are problem gamblers on-line, as there still are in the TABs of old. But to draw any parallel with poker machine gamblers is utterly fallacious and irresponsible – they’re like chalk and cheese. For a start – sports betting requires at least SOME study of sport, and at least SOME familiarity with betting systems, whereas pokies require nothing more than a desire for human company. And in the case of problem gamblers – a temporary respite from crippling financial anxiety.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Rosie

    Gambling is for losers.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Jay

    So anyone that invests in shares is a loser too, Rosie?

    • Reply November 1, 2012

      vegit

      Jay, that depend on if you want to be an ethical investor.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Tony W

    “Gambling is for losers.”

    Statistically, yes. They outnumber winners by a very large margin.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Tony W

    “So anyone that invests in shares is a loser too, Rosie?”

    I wasn’t going to mention the stock market or superannuation!
    Billions lost by mum and dad gamblers in the GFC. Losers..?

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    Helen King

    I find it appalling – as a mother of a nearly 8 year old son who is passionate about his sports – watching, listening on the radio, following highlights on YouTube etc (and yes, playing – he is not a stay at home slob), we can’t get away from the advertising. It’s one thing for an adult who is in a position to are a choice (providing they don’t have a tendency to addition) but another to constantly explain why gamblers rarely win, why it is allowed to be promoted, why we don’t agree with it – that you need to be prepared, and accept, that anything you get you could lose. I would like the constant promotion removed from main stream TV programs and live games, particularly AFL games, as it is contradictory to their ‘family friendly’ aims, I believe.

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    ellenni

    i hope to hell all those who glamourise gambling live to see some sort of retribution. i for one would much rather spend $2000 on a serious handbag that give these leeches that money. the casino has destroyed so many families. those who gamble wont be reading these comments as they are busy losing. very few people win.
    lets remember always that were there not vast profits to be from people losing money there would be no gambling industry.
    these gambling establishments should not be allowed to advertise at any sporting events.

  • Reply November 1, 2012

    Tony W

    “I would like the constant promotion removed from main stream TV programs and live games, particularly AFL games, as it is contradictory to their ‘family friendly’ aims, I believe.”

    Helen, last year the AFL and MCC voluntarily withdrew from sponsorship deals to advertise live betting odds at games, and managed to stop TV commentators as well. Unfortunately they have no control over TV advertising during breaks, nor can they stop clubs accepting lucrative sponsorship deals from betting agencies to advertise on players’ jumpers.

    These are things you may want to explain to your son, to show that the AFL is very much against promoting gambling too.

    Ultimately though you just need to have faith in him yourself to make the right choices in life. Many young men dabble in gambling when they start earning their own money, but the vast majority swear off it after a few hard losses. Experience is the best teacher here – no amount of mum telling him it’s a mug’s game can compare to the pain of a couple of lost paypackets!

  • Reply November 4, 2012

    Kate

    It’s a pity we haven’t learned the lessons from the tobacco campaign and, to a lesser extent, the alcohol campaigns.

    The trouble is that gambling has more faces than either of those national addictions.

    Firstly, there is a cultural history from two-up to horse racing.

    Then the pokies came along and they are, so far, by far the worst.

    Now on-line gambling has reared its ugly but enticing omni-presence.

    The Government has essentially failed in regulating pokie gambling because it and the community clubs are addicted to the revenue. We need to persevere with this campaign, however.

    On-line gambling is quite scary because it IS so unregulated. We don’t know what the losses are yet.

    I hope that every person who has contributed feedback to this article also writes to his/her State and Federal members.

    I think it would be great if people also contacted the AFL and other sporting bodies who continue to allow gambling advertising at their events and who continue to accept gambling industry sponsorship.

    I felt proud when the Australian Government won the legal battle against the tobacco companies re packaging of cigarettes. Nicola Roxon got emotionally involved because her father died of cancer caused by tobacco.

    I want to write to her and say that I know people who have suicided as a consequence of pokie addiction, and I know families which have been torn apart. Many Australians are tragically affected by pokie gambling. Do we have to wait 30 years for meaningful reform? $1.00 maximum bets would be a good start, and so achievable.

    If only the Government had the courage to confront its own addiction pokie generated revenue and to to stand up to the gambling industry. We should all write and request that they act on OUR behalf.

  • Reply November 4, 2012

    Babs

    Tobacco and liquor advertising has been banned from the tube for years. Gambling is a vice and as addictive as smoking and drinking therefore it too should be banned from tv adverts. It ‘s shocking how many online betting sites are now advertised on tv. There must be a way to get some traction on removing the likes of Tom Waterhouse from our tv screens.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Tony W

    “Tobacco and liquor advertising has been banned from the tube for years.”

    Sorry Babs, but liquor advertising is not banned on TV. Johnny Walker launched a new ad just last month.

    Alcohol advertising is self regulated, and as far as I’m aware there are no plans to ban it. As Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said earlier this year:

    “There’s a big difference between alcohol and tobacco. You can have safe consumption of alcohol. You can’t have safe consumption of tobacco,” she said.”

    I agree there’s a huge cultural problem in Australia with alcohol and gambling. It would be great to ban TV ads but there’d be enormous legal problems. Look at the legal fight big tobacco put up over plain packaging.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Babs

    Thanks Tony; I stand corrected. Can’t we get an action group going to remove online betting ads! Tracey Spicer should be able to get some stories going on ACA or TT I would think. I tried Media Watch but zero response.

  • Reply December 10, 2012

    FIGHTING DEMENTIA

    [...] Life’s A Glamorous Gamble [...]

  • [...] And what have we had shoved down our throats for the past two years? A Saville Row suited scion of society promoting one of its greatest ills. [...]

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