Shocking result but gambling is the real winner
Now that the Cup’s behind us and Shocking has won it, let’s get serious about addressing the massive gap in our national dialogue on gambling. It’s that gap that’s referred to in the title of this piece.
Punch deputy editor Tory Maguire wrote a great piece recently on the scourge of the pokies. In it, she summarised some of the measures proposed to combat that electronic plague. But where is the same debate about racing?
The Melbourne Cup is a great national event. I’ve written about it in glowing, enthusiastic terms twice on this website this week, and countless times elsewhere. I once even argued that Cup Day should be our National Day. Everybody, sing with me: Horse Trainers all let us rejoice…
But the Melbourne Cup is totally unrepresentative of what the racing industry is all about in the year 2009. For 364 days of the year, racing is essentially no more glamorous – nor any less monotonous – than the pokies themselves.
Consider this. Today, there are almost 130 gallops races you can bet on with Aussie TABs, from the first at Trentham (NZ) at 10 am to the last at Kempton (UK) at 1.50 am. If you fancy the dogs and the trots, throw another 100 or so races into the mix.
No punter in their right mind could do the form on all of those races, so naturally, they don’t bother. The majority just throw their money away as blindly as a blue-haired pensioner on the pokies.
In the old days, when tens of thousands people went to every race meeting, you bet on race eight and then put the wallet away until the following Saturday.
Back then, a day at the races was a social outing. Yes, there were desperates and addicts and crims, but the general atmosphere was not dissimilar to an afternoon at the footy.
Nowadays, in all but carnival times, gambling on horses is primarily a solo pursuit. Gambling counsellors will tell you that if you keep it social, you keep it safe, but the wall-to-wall barrage of races, 24/7/364, is a trap perfectly designed to lure the solo punter.
Got a spare hour at lunchtime? Hit the TAB and help line the pockets of Tabcorp shareholders. Got nothing to do on a lazy Saturday arvo? Put Sky Racing on the Foxtel and help your online bookie buy a new Mercedes.
The explosion of internet gambling – whether it be racing, sports, poker or two pixellated flies crawling up a wall – is the really big story here. Largely unchecked and virtually un-debated at any level of government or wider society, internet gambling is dangerous in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine yet.
In the Productivity Commission’s latest report, online gambling constituted an unspecified portion of the so-called “wagering” sector (sports and racing). Whatever the figure is (and it’s probably about 5 per cent of the total gambling spend), you can be sure it’s growing.
Like the pokies, the internet is there all day and all night. It’s the new frontier of chain-you-to-the-chair gambling, designed to lull you into a sense of ongoing expectation and anticipation, one mind-numbing hit at a time.
Congratulations to you if you won on the Cup today. But if you lost, and this whole gambling caper suddenly seems like an instant turnoff, you’re the really lucky one.
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@mooks83 sophisticated response. Think the kids parents saw it differently
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