Our cup runneth over with betting options
By the end of today Australians will have spent just under $800 million on an event which lasts for just over three minutes.
According to research by the financial modelling firm IBISWorld, $377.7 million will be spent on fashion and fascinators, booze and canapés, as well as travel and accommodation for those making it to down to Melbourne. Another $404 million will be spent directly on gambling, be it a couple of bucks in the office sweep or the big end of town plunging tens of thousands on their favourite nag.
The total amount: $781.7 million. An extraordinary amount of money by any measure.
There are those who would argue that the cost to society is greater than this amount. I’m not so sure. While I have never developed any real fondness for horse-racing – give me a night at the dogs any day – the Melbourne Cup strikes me as completely harmless fun, and for many people is the one day of the year when they bet on anything at all.
If anything, the Melbourne Cup represents the best form of gambling in that it is social, occasional, and requires a bit of effort on the part of the participant, especially for us infrequent punters who have never really paid any attention to the whereabouts of the local TAB.
The kind of gambling which is more of a concern is the type which is solitary, constant, and requires no effort at all, and it’s that category of gambling which is increasing through the proliferation of poker machines and the burgeoning suite of sports betting options which can be accessed with the tap of a finger on your smart phone.
Formula One driver Mark Webber is never short of an opinion and he didn’t hold back last week when asked if he would be having a flutter at Flemington today. He said horse-racing was at the bottom of his list of sports and had a crack at our general national obsession with getting on the punt.
“I’m not a big fan of how much it’s rammed down your throat in Australia, in terms of how you can bet on who farts at what stage in a football match,” Webber said.
It might have been a coarse sentiment, but it is almost a valid one. In the past few years there has been an explosion not just in the type of sports we can bet on, but more importantly when and how we can bet on those sports.
The media is involved in this too. Indeed, Mark Webber might find it mildly ironic that the online version of the story about his attack on gambling is housed within our own SuperRacing section, which is produced in partnership with the TAB and offers real-time odds on all the latest races. There is nothing new about this – it’s just a digital version of the form guide which for decades has been found in the middle of the newspapers. So it isn’t horse-racing where things have changed, but sports betting.
As an occasional punter, I’ve enjoyed sports betting in the past, putting twenty bucks on my favourite team for the Soccer World Cup, or placing about $50 worth of different bets on the AFL Grand Final. In a very short space of time sports betting has gone from being an occasional thing which you would do for a bit of a laugh, to being an integrated part of the sporting experience.
The odds on teams are a more compelling indicator of form than the work of any tipsters, and are routinely published and broadcast alongside the teams for each round, and fluctuate live in the middle of games. One thing I’ve noticed in the past year is how my six-year-old son, who like most Aussie Rules-mad kids has a savant-like recall for footy statistics, can also tell me what the odds are each week when we are talking about who is likely to get up on the weekend. When Port played GWS in Sydney earlier this year and the Giants were at five bucks or so to win, he was urging me to get on because he thought Port would crumble. Sadly I didn’t take his advice. I don’t find this overly troubling because I am confident he will grow up knowing that betting should be an occasional form of fun. But it strikes me as pretty interesting, especially when you factor in the digitally-savvy nature of his generation, who can use an iPhone before they have got their grade two pen licences, who know how to use your iTunes account to install their favourite apps, and for whom cash is an abstract concept because they are so accustomed to clicking to pay for things online.
In terms of how the sporting codes manage the issue of players betting on games, all I would say is good luck on that score. The young blokes who are about to make their debut in the AFL and the NRL are fully webbed-up digital natives who have grown up with an iPhone glued to their hand. They are also about to earn more money than most of them could have ever imagined and have a very easy and addictive way to get rid of it right at their disposal. In this modern age of gambling the Melbourne Cup seems kind of quaint and old-fashioned. It is harder to predict how this next wave of real-time, digitally-driven gambling will affect us all, and whether the occasional and innocent punt will become something more unmanageable on account of the ease and availability of betting.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…