When you think of a problem gambler, chances are you think of someone in a dank, windowless pub section, engrossed by flashing lights and sinisterly cheerful music.

Someone who goes for the free International Roast and stays for the occasional plink of coins won. Someone a bit pathetic.

Not someone in a fascinating mini-headpiece or a nice suit, right? Somehow the glamour of punting on horses hides the fact that that it, too, fuels problem gambling.

It’s true that pokies are far and away the biggest culprit. Three out of four people with a serious gambling problem play the pokies. And most people gamble responsibly at the races. At Melbourne Cup time there’s probably a bigger social impact from booze, from cheap chicken and chardy or the occasional Moët overdose.

But there’s still something dire about the disconnect between pokie-related problem gambling and the champagne-soaked celebration of splashing the cash at Melbourne Cup.

Wielding the bedazzler is thoroughbred Tom Waterhouse, who walks across our television screens casting a glamour on all things betting.

With a toothy grin like a self-satisfied Scientologist, you almost expect him to be jumping on couches declaring his love of gambling; but that would be too crass for someone of his breeding.

Instead it’s all sharp suits, Mad Men-style trendy bags, black and white chic. He wants to give you what you want. Which is for you to give him your money. 

In 2010 more than $100 million was bet on the Melbourne Cup in Victoria and NSW alone. It’s big bucks. Wagering on horses is also continuous, like pokies. It offers excitement and instant gratification.

But we’re not really talking about horses when we talk about problem gambling.

Maybe it’s partly a snobbery thing – in the same way that we think it’s OK to swill top-notch Pinot by the demijohn but we need to stop the poor degenerates getting pissed on cheap as chips gutrot.

It could also be that this unsteady Government is reluctant to put the squeeze on more than one golden-egg-laying goose at a time.

And maybe it’s also because we are almost proud of our propensity to bet on horses; we love a punt, we’re Australian. It’s part of our culture. It’s tradition. And traditions can’t possibly be bad, can they?

There’s no danger in a one-off flutter on the Cup, as long as you don’t bet the house or kids. But there is a real danger in more general race betting, and in this new marketing trickery redefining it as not just ‘Australian’ but five-star-top-hat-flash-car-haute-couture classy.

Tom Waterhouse is not selling us the occasional flutter. He’s selling a lifestyle, jolly good old-fashioned glamour. A glamour that distracts from the dirty, fast-paced, technology-driven money-making machine behind it. 

People like Tom Waterhouse magick away any worries that, for some, betting can lead to devastating addiction.

I asked gambling expert Associate Professor Matthew Rockloff about this sexier sort of gambling. He likens it to drug abuse. For most people who want to get high, alcohol is their drug of choice. But the addicted will take whatever’s going. Prof Rockloff, who is the deputy director of the Central Queensland University’s Institute for Health and Social Science Research, warned that we concentrate on poker machines maybe to the exclusion of other forms of gambling, and that we can’t afford to be complacent about race betting.

He points out that in the UK, it’s betting on the hounds or the horses that’s the real problem, not the ‘fruit machines’, because of the different market dynamics over there.

No one wants to be a downer, least of all today. But it’s equally a good time to peel back Tom Waterhouse’s mystical curtain just a bit. That toothy grin is there for a reason; he knows what the punters want, he knows how to give it to them, and he knows who’ll be the real winner at the finish line.

Twitter: @ToryShepherd

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:28am | 06/11/12

      Gambling will always be a problem while there is acceptance that making a profit from another’s addiction is OK.  Perhaps we should have performance based anti-gambling laws based on outcomes ?

    • Pedro says:

      09:12am | 06/11/12

      I am a loss to know where all the coin is coming from to fund the wall to wall ads for TW.com - and then there’s all the paid plugs when he’s on everything from the news to the morning chat shows. He is really ubiquitous.
      This is something the nany state should look into rather than endless red light and speed cameras.
      BUt then if the state government is in bed with Packer Jnr, do we really think anything will change? In fact I’ll bet (pun intended) that things will get much much worse on the in-your-face-gamblig front before they get better. (And I will never ever pay to Sam L Jackson film again - even if his last fewe efforts have been utter shite anyway).
      A few pollies with balls - that’s all we need. Perhaps those independents the LNP hate so much aren’t a bad thing after all? Perhaps we need a few more.

    • Jane says:

      02:42pm | 06/11/12

      BOOOO!!! Its Melbourne Cup Day. Calm your farm Tory!!!!

    • Reg Whiteman says:

      06:38am | 06/11/12

      Tom claims to know what punters want - but he doesn’t. Punters want just one thing: TO WIN.

      Why is it that clubs and pubs can’t advertise their pokies; but Waterhouse and all the other pocket-picking sleazes can advertise their betting shop virtually 24/7?

      Why is it that there are Government spnsored ads about problem gambling - instantly followed by the spivvy Tom teling you that you can bet on anything at all and all conveniently from your i-phone at any time of the day or night.

      Tom reckons he knows what punters want; but I know what he’s got: a gambling system where he just can’t lose, a licence to print money, and no Fine Cotton to trip him up.

    • morrgo says:

      08:14am | 06/11/12

      What I have been missing out on by watching SBS!  Either the demographic is not conducive for bookie spivs’ ads, or the commercial management has principles.

    • Deets says:

      04:23pm | 06/11/12

      I think he is selling his product much the same any any sales person, its legal and surely has a market or he would not bother. Yes people will buy the dream just like they do with lotto or weight loss programs . All I can say is buyer beware, the house always wins if you stay long enough.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:06am | 06/11/12

      Nice suit?
      You don’t see that at the races very often unless you are in one of the decent marquees. Usually it’s some hideous shiny thing bought from one of the bargain basement “gentlemen’s outfitters”.

      The funniest thing about Tom Waterhouse will be the delight I’ll have at watching him be chewed up and spat out by the giants such as bet365.com. The little people are never capable of beating the big guys in the long term. Pathetic little upstarts should never even bother trying. But it’s always fun to see them blindsided by a mixture of their arrogance and hubris.

    • Gregg says:

      07:20am | 06/11/12

      The shine of Tommy might wear a bit thin before too long, it usually does with overkill and is it a sign he needs to gamble on something else by bringing Mum, Gai in on the act!

      Just stick with the Cup Tory and don’t say I did not pass on the trifecta tip: 1 - 8 - 10 - 24 in a box and if the big numbers come one, two and three in any order, it could put a smile better than Toms on your face.

    • Mayday says:

      07:22am | 06/11/12

      Not a fan of Waterhouse but “he knows what the punters want, he knows how to give it to them, and he knows who’ll be the real winner at the finish line.”

      More than can be said of the Hamster Wheel hubris and lack of talent.

    • ramases says:

      08:03am | 06/11/12

      Whatever is said about what Waterhouse does it still boils down to the individual. Waterhouse might bundle the whole thing up so its trendy or whatever but if he didn’t have the clowns who have no self control then he wouldn’t be in business.People are responsible for their own actions and without them most gambling would be non profitable.
        Personally I think gambling on a horse is a mugs game and always have and the amount of money that I have put through a pokie has luckily come back to me three fold in winnings although its a once a year thing. Why because I have self control and don’t let gambling run my life
      People bleat on about problem gamblers and the need to curb the way in which they can lose at various forms of gambling because they cant control themselves but why should people who have self control be subjected to rules to save the few who have no control or self respect. That’s like saying people are killed by cars so lets ban all cars. No, it all comes down to that one thing time and time again people taking responsibility for their own actions.

    • David says:

      08:20am | 06/11/12

      We ban cigarette advertising, limit alcohol ads, make car ads PC yet we are still bombarded with gambling ads. Gambling is now a bigger problem in the community with gambling addiction, suicides & familes being torn apart. Does Tom Waterhouse really know what people, not punters, want? Why would you place a bet with someone whose father was charged with race fixing anyway????

    • Sundew says:

      06:50pm | 06/11/12

      Almost my exact thoughts, David. However, I’m sure our governments are getting a nice slice of the earnings from gamblers.

    • SydneyGirl says:

      08:50am | 06/11/12

      I just want a ban on the Waterhouses appearing in print anywhere.  That is all.

      Seriouly sick of seeing ther faces plastered on every site.

    • Rick says:

      08:59am | 06/11/12

      What a lot of crock , Im a regular horse punter , I have a Tom Waterhouse account along with the good ol TAB .  You pay your money and take you choices/chances , good or bad . Thats the nature of the punt , its all about price offered .
      Everyone is responsible for their own choices in life , everything we do in life is a gamble. Job,Home,Debt etc,etc,etc.
      This time of year is always great for the regular punter to zone in , and make a kill over the young hipster nuff nuffs on their Dumb phones with NFI happily betting up .
      Why pick on TW because he tapped into a great business idea .
      Beats doing retail !

    • HappyG says:

      09:35am | 06/11/12

      This !!!!

      By the way folks it’s not compulsory to have a bet. If some can’t handle it ......tough. The nanny state can just go piss off as far as I’m concerned.

    • Dave says:

      10:03am | 06/11/12

      You 2 clowns need to realise that for some people gambling is not a choice it is an addiction just like drugs or alcohol. In the end these betting agencies are preying on some of the most vulnerable in society. Stop preaching about choice &  self control when for some people this just is not an option. Go and ask someone who has blown 100K in a compo payment on gambling is they had self control and the answer will invariably be - NO!

    • Modern Primitive says:

      10:32am | 06/11/12

      I have little sympathy for them, Dave.

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:38am | 06/11/12

      It’s always about choice and self-control. Not even addictions turn you into automatons. You are aware of your actions and it’s up to you to control them for your benefit.

    • Dave says:

      12:29pm | 06/11/12

      Maybe some of you people should spend a few hours with people who have lost everything to gambling addictions before passing judgement on self control and tell them that they are stupid and should have known better. Or even better spend some time at a financial counsellors and listen to some of their horror stores about what gambling has done to punter and their families

    • Tubesteak says:

      02:27pm | 06/11/12

      I’d happily call a fucking idiot a fucking idiot to their face. I have no sympathy for fools and do not suffer them well. It doesn’t take long to incur my wrath and I am the brutally blunt short-tempered mean-spirited type that is happy to do so. I don’t like people very much and often look for reasons not to like them and then take some perverse pleasure in pointing out their failings as I twist the knife in their gut.

      Stupid people shouldn’t be molly-coddled. They should be ridiculed for the fools they are and held up as an example of idiocy.

    • Sean says:

      03:05pm | 06/11/12

      @Tubesteak, this comment is just as useless as your one higher up on the page about how the little guys shouldn’t bother trying because they’ll lose. You’ve got a crap attitude that offers nothing to anyone. Not everyone fails at what they attempt, some people are capable of success. Apparently you aren’t, and are therefore detached from reality.

      That said, I can’t wait to get this gambling advertisement and placement back outta my life. You can’t watch the footy without seeing the odds half a dozen times, interspersed with 10 ads about gambling and a bunch of losers cashing winning tickets. Betting odds aren’t news either.

      Have a punt all you like, just don’t use government welfare on it. Bring on the food stamps and electricity vouchers - I don’t want the gambling industry, along with liquor and tobacco, being Australia’s biggest welfare recipients.

    • Brent M says:

      03:07pm | 06/11/12

      Just bear in mind that, while you might (justifiably) criticise the idiot gambler, many of them have wives/husbands and, more importantly, children who are completely innocent victims - these innocent people are not “responsible for their own choices”, as they don’t have a choice. Perhaps you think it is acceptable collateral damage for a child to go without clothes, food or school supplies, because mum or dad pissed the $ away on the horses/pokies or whatever other crap gambling choices are thrown in their face by TW and co?

      You argue that TW has tapped into a great business idea - you could argue that drug importers have done the same thing, but that doesn’t make their conduct right or justifiable.

      What sh*ts me is that advertising cigarettes is banned, there are increasing restrictions on advertising alcohol, yet it is apparently fine to massively promote all sorts of great ways for gambling addicts to lose their (and their family’s) money, during sports, primetime tv etc.

    • Rob says:

      04:11pm | 06/11/12

      Dave, looks like you’ve been sucked in by the, “Woe is me…” addicts. There’s ALWAYS a choice. What do you think happened with these people, once upon a time? Did they walk past a TAB or licensed club and, shazzam, they were suddenly inside, against their will, fighting to get back out the door, but ultimately giving in and having a punt? Seems like you’re way too gullible when listening to these stories, mate.

    • Tubesteak says:

      04:15pm | 06/11/12

      It’s only a matter of time before fools that overstep their mark fail spectacularly
      There is no longer any such thing as a rags to riches story. Even Facebook and Google will flat in time.
      Mark my words.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      09:22am | 06/11/12

      Yes, how dare those nasty capitalists run and advertise a profit making enterprise. Vulnerable people will be suckered out of their hard earned entirely through their own choice. We should tutt tutt the people who enable them. Damnation upon the enablers!

    • Rick says:

      10:40am | 06/11/12

      @ Dave Who are you trying to kid Dave? If you are dumb enough to blow 100k on gambling without knowing what you are doing then, you are a mental case , and thats your own fault !
      Of course you could always play the Real Estate market or Shares market for the same result , but I guess then it wouldnt be your fault if you lost , would it ?

    • Tanya says:

      09:40am | 06/11/12

      He can wear all the shiny suits he likes but ultimately he’s just the most current in a long line of what are possibly the worst kind of opportunists in this economy, appearing on TV to profit from and perpetuate a growing social ill. Parasites are anything BUT glamorous!

    • JoniM says:

      03:39pm | 06/11/12

      Yep !
      He is right up there with those opportunists like record producers, women’s magazine editors, real estate agents, car salesmen, politicians, drug dealers, futures dealers, Hillsong, The Church of Scientology, the clowns on Gruen Transfer, etc
      So what is your point ?
      There are lots of parasitic marketeers. Why is he so different ?
      Because you don’t punt ?

    • HomeDad says:

      09:45am | 06/11/12

      I’m a bloke who doesn’t mind a beer and a punt every now and then and I do like to follow the horses. My big problem with Tom Waterhouse is this ... HE IS THE SON OF “CHAMPION” TRAINER GAI WATERHOUSE ! When all of those sure bet short priced favourites of Gai’s get rolled who profits? Tom and (convicted race fixer) Robbie. Please don’t tell me that discussion of horses in training and those running is of limits at the Waterhouse home when the boy comes over for his Sunday roast. It is the biggest joke in racing. I downright refuse to bet on any horse that Gai Waterhouse trains and there is no way in the world I would ever let Tom near my money. My Dad and I would always put a couple of bets on each weekend as he struggled with cancer and his lasting words to me will always be ... “Son, where there is money, there are thieves”. Not a truer word has been spoken!

    • Ex-Waterhouse Employee says:

      05:20pm | 06/11/12

      Not this bollocks again. 

      If you had ever met the Waterhouses, at all, you would know that Gai is the epitomy of hard work, honesty and grace. She works her arse off and deserves all of the success that she has had. Which is considerable. She’s earned it. Just because she stuck by the man she loves when everyone else called him a crook (and I don’t know if he really is, Fine Cotton was before my time), she is tarrred with the same brush. You, HomeDad, would be lucky to have a wife as faithful and supportive. If you have one, I hope you treat her well.

      Rob Waterhouse is a kind, hard working man who loves his family. Yeah, maybe he stuffed up in his younger days. Everyone makes a mistake at least once in their lives. Was YOUR biggest mistake dragged out again and again and again? Did it almost destroy your entire family, and your livelihood? Did all your friends suddenly shun you? If not, shut up. If it did, I would think you’d have more empathy.

      Tom has never been convicted of shady dealings. Ever. For you to assume that he’s up to his neck in it just because of his surname is disgusting and discriminatory. Shame on you.

      Oh, and FYI, most bookies don’t set their own rates these days. They have employees who use statistical analysis based on probability theories and historical performance to do that. They only adjust them slightly.

    • Anthropomorphic says:

      09:51am | 06/11/12

      Tom’s a smooth salesman, no doubt. And sensible-thinking people know it’s snake oil he’s selling - as is Samuel L Jackson for Bet.360 and those inexplicable “Fire Up” TAB adverts. But unfortunately there are people dumb enough to part with their hard-earned cash for get-rich-quick schemes and miracle potions despite all the scientific evidence proving their uselessness or even damage. Personally, I’m more offended by the bombardment of emotional blackmail on TV in the form of extraordinarily cheap but incessant insurance adverts - telling the gullible they must part with the cost of a “cup of coffee” for the rest of their lives for virtually worthless life/funeral/pet insurance policies. (Just do the simple arithmetic and you’ll see why) We used to turn the garden hose on these sleazy door-to-door salesmen and now they can ply their tripe on our tellies every advert break without fear of getting a soaking. They just reinforce, like Tom “trust my toothy smile” Waterhouse that a sucker and his money are soon parted….

    • JoniM says:

      03:51pm | 06/11/12

      Could be worse !
      He could be selling ladies shoes and handbags !!
      Oh ! The humanity !

    • Vino says:

      04:50pm | 06/11/12

      Do as I have done and Sell your arial connection on Ebay, then get Apple TV. You can watch all the same shows, add free, and within 3 weeks you will feel the scorn of those adverts make your life a hell of a lot more enjoyable as you are not so pissed off all the time.

      Free TV is best when the free means free of adverts!

    • Bazza the Oracle says:

      11:13am | 06/11/12

      irrellevant story Tory Unless you are a woman that likes to control her man.? Australian men like a beer a smoke and a bit of a punt.Unfortunately they don’t all like doing the ironing , watching chick flicks, cooking,and doing the housework for their soon to be devorced wife.Devorced why? Because she doesn’t respect him anymore and is screwing the bricklayer down the road who, Drinks, smokes and gambles..

    • JoniM says:

      03:56pm | 06/11/12

      Gotcha Bazza !
      That’s cause Brickies know how to handle their trowel !

    • expat says:

      11:58am | 06/11/12

      The statistics are respectable compared to the lotto… How many people people waste lots of money on the lotto each week?

      “but lottery is for the charities” So encouraging charity through gambling! That makes plenty of sense..

    • SAm says:

      12:43pm | 06/11/12

      That Tom Waterhouse guy has serious eye problems. he frikkin blinks and nods after every second word. Its very unnerving

    • RH says:

      03:04pm | 06/11/12

      Sure sign of a liar if ever there was one.  Can’t blame the studio conditions or he needs to fire his director.

    • pete says:

      02:33pm | 06/11/12

      I’m sure Tom Waterhouse appreciates the free advertising.

    • Greg says:

      02:59pm | 06/11/12

      Why the specific targeting of Waterhouse?

      Is he somehow different to Sportingbet, Sportsbet, Centrebet, Luxbet, Bet365 or the TAB?

      It seems like a fairly desperate attempt to gain attention for a shallow argument that yields almost no new information.

    • mmg says:

      03:34pm | 06/11/12

      I was wondering that myself.  It might be a valid argument, that some gambling addicts bet on horses, but I don’t see the need to pick on one individual as there are plenty of ways to cast a bet on a horse…

    • Cozza says:

      06:08pm | 06/11/12

      It’s because he’s at the head of this influx of betting agencies particularly aimed at punting on the horses. Only very recently has marketing these agencies through tv and other media exploded and I guarantee anyone who thinks of betting saturation ads,they think of TW. His ads are annoying and incessant. I also have a massive problem with the fact he is the close son of a TOP TRAINER. Never has there been a dodgier happening than this. It can’t be coincidence that since TW began his venture,Gai’s favourites have been quieter than a rat pissing on cotton!!

    • Dave says:

      06:42pm | 06/11/12

      spot on Greg !  On 2GB this morning, Tom Waterhouse tipped Green Moon to win the Melbourne Cup. How about that ! Tune in to Alan Jones tomorrow morning for confirmation.
      Tory, why do you hate Tom?

    • Randy says:

      03:08pm | 06/11/12

      WA banned pokies back in the 70s…  Shame the East Coast never did.  But I suppose when your state governments are reliant on gambling income to provide basic services to their citizens it is to be expected.

    • JoniM says:

      04:04pm | 06/11/12

      What has pokies got to do with Tom Waterhouse ? Without pokies the good
      folk of WA can concentrate all its gambling on horses and the services offered by TW ! Or else they can gamble on the stock market for those mining resources and associated royalties that WA is so reliant upon to provide its basic services !
      Lets face it life is one big punt !
      Choose your poison !

    • Oinky says:

      03:16pm | 06/11/12

      The lady in this advert looks like a idiot.

    • Dave Boston says:

      03:20pm | 06/11/12

      Funny thing about it, liek someone said, spending money on the real estate market or buying shares is somehow different. No, shares, if you look at it, is the rich man’s punting. You are investing YOUR money into the success of a company. That company fails-you lose money. Same as betting, you invest YOUR money into a horse-if it fails, then you lose. But yet the stock market isnt the thing that people frown upon. I may be wrong but to me, it seems the same.

    • DG says:

      03:43pm | 06/11/12

      Tom Waterhouse - two words - Fine Cotton. Look it up & then place money with someone who declares he has the breeding.

    • No Gambling says:

      04:06pm | 06/11/12

      All the gambling ads should be outlawed. It also should not be permitted that the rich kid son is allowed to lure others into their demise, so he can make even more money. His grin is as false as his teeth and his smile - he’s after the money from the punters, and he won’t care if he takes it all. Shame on him and all who advertise gambling. I’m not religious, not against drinking in moderation and love a good life, but gambling is something I loathe. It’s bad enough that people here are so addicted, it’s worth it’s permitted to be advertised.

    • Sandy says:

      04:30pm | 06/11/12

      I bet you bought a lotto ticket for tonight too!

    • Tom Waterhut says:

      04:46pm | 06/11/12

      Lotto and Pokies are forms of gambling where blind chance is the only format.
      At least in racing most punters have to make an informed decision integrating financial risk and reward, human interactions, animal behavior and plenty of physics,
      Racing is also a traditional pursuit as is reading but in present day Australia
      reading is also going out of style.

    • JC says:

      05:17pm | 06/11/12

      He is wearing a suit to appeal to the top-end market. Just like one of the other betting ads with Merv Hughes is bogan and is appealing to a different market. The fact that you single out Tom Waterhouse because he put his name against a brand is pathetic

    • Anthony says:

      05:27pm | 06/11/12

      Tom’s not the problem. Train your mob Tory.

    • HT says:

      06:47pm | 06/11/12

      Get a life and stop watching TV. I’ve never seen this Waterhouse’ mug face and I’m thankful for that.


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