A horse racing advertisement projected on the side of Australia’s most famous landmark, the Sydney Opera House has sparked a national debate in the country.
The controversial advertisement aims to promote this year’s upcoming Everest Cup, which is the second time the event is being held. Everest, which inaugurated in 2017 is the world’s largest turf race and comes with a prize pool of $9.2 million (A$13 million). The race will take place on October 13.
In the midst of heated arguments over the advertisement, there are concerns the multi-billion dollar gambling industry is rapidly tightening its grip on the country.
A new study from H2 Gambling Capital and the Economist has revealed an ongoing serious gambling problem in Australia. Australians lose more per capita than any other nation in the world ($990 in average per person), making them the most prolific gamblers on earth. This compares to the runner up Singapore losing only $650 per person.
Advertisement Cheapens World Heritage Landmark
Critics have labeled the ad “sacrilegious” saying it will degrade the UNESCO World Heritage site and tarnish its image. World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Rev. Tim Costello, a long-time anti-gambling campaigner, said Australia’s blind spot has been captured by gambling interests. He went on to claim that gambling is the greediest and most destructive industry in the country.
Racing NSW, the body representing Australian racing, has been defending the advertisement. Chief Executive Peter V’landys issued a statement saying the advertisement is not at all related to gambling. Racing has been embedded in Australian culture as far back as colonization period, he added. Whether Australians like it or not, racing is in the country’s DNA.
The outrage started last week, following announcement from local media that the Opera House had fused permission for the horse race to be advertised on the side of the world heritage building.
There were heated exchanges between Sydney radio host Alan Jones and Opera House Trust Chief Executive Louise Herron at an interview, with Jones calling for Herron to be terminated over the decision. Herron fired back by saying they have full authority over the Opera House because they own it.
However on Friday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian ordered the Trust to grant permission to Racing NSW so they could push through with initial plans to advertise the Everest Cup near the Opera House.
The advertisement was significantly toned down and no longer included the names of the horses’ or the Everest logo. It was up and running from Tuesday night and upset gambling opponents.
The NSW Premier said the Opera House was also lit up for other Australian sports events like the Rugby World Cup and the Ashes cricket series, so this year’s Everest Cup ad shouldn’t be an issue. Last year, the horse race had been shown to 60 million people worldwide, a significant drawing card for Sydney and hence she justified the advertisement.
Petition Launched
A Change.org petition supporting the initial decision of the Opera House to refuse permission to the advertisement has gained over 170,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. The Editorial section of the Sydney Morning Herald also took a swipe at Racing NSW saying the advertisement would surely generate money but it would ruin the building’s symbolic value.
Widespread Gambling Addiction
Gambling is one of Australia’s most lucrative industries but adversely impacts the tens of thousands of problem gamblers in the country. According to latest figures from the Australian Gambling Statistics, the total gambling expenditure in the country amounted to $16.7 billion (A$23.7 billion) in the financial year 2016-2017 alone. This equates to every Australian citizen losing $881.61 (A$1, 251) to gambling each year.
There appears to be a gambling addiction epidemic in the country with just under one in every 200 people in the entire country considered as problem gamblers. That makes a total of 115,000 people being tagged as suffering from gambling addiction issues, while 280,000 people are at risk.
Pokie machines are also a hit with Australian gamblers with nearly 200,000 easily accessible machines allowed to operate across the country. Costello said more than 400 Australians commit suicide every year from pokie machines alone, a number that is significantly higher than gun deaths.

This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.