It’s pretty hard to ignore ‘the race that stops a nation’. In addition to the saturation of media covering the Melbourne Cup, there’s also a plethora of gambling television and radio ads leading up to 1 November.
And, according to a 2014 report into Australian’s gambling habits, Australians will spend billions on race and sports betting during this period.
With all this money flying around you’d be forgiven for thinking that betting was a sure-fire way of making a quick buck. After all, this is the message that seems to float—like cream—above all others.
Of course, the reality is far from the truth.
As we at the Salvos know, betting can also be a one-way road to ruin. One thing we’ve noticed over the last few years is that there’s been a marked increase in the number of people seeking assistance, particularly in the 18–25 age group.
As operations manager of The Salvation Army’s Recovery Services, Gerard Byrne writes at salvos.org.au, there’s a ‘generation of mostly young men who have been groomed to become the industry’s most valuable consumer’.
‘Despite the obligatory warning to “bet with your head, not over it”,’ he adds, ‘the distress caused to gamblers and their families will persist long after the final whistle has been blown.’ Or after the four-legged stragglers go over the finish line.
But, if you’re still not convinced, allow me to point you to an article entitled ‘For this year’s Melbourne Cup consider a charity rather than taking on Tom Waterhouse’, published in 2014 in The Conversation.
In the article, the writers—University of Newcastle’s professor of finance Steve Easton and lecturer of accounting and finance Adrian Melia, and the University of Sydney’s Professor Richard Gerlach—explain that in the lead-up to the 2014 Melbourne Cup, celebrity bookmaker Tom Waterhouse was ‘heavily marketing a “$25 million bet that stops a nation”’.
‘All you have to do is give him A$10 and if you place the first 10 horses in correct finishing order in the cup you have a chance, stress “have a chance”, to win A$25 million,’ they write. ‘If other punters happen to place the same bet, then you’ll have to share the $25 million with them.’
The three do some number-crunching of their own and surmise that ‘the probability of any person correctly placing the first 10 horses is extremely low. In fact, it’s likely to be much lower than we might expect.’
Rather than investing in Tom Waterhouse’s marketing vision or in Ladbrokes’ odds they conclude, we’d be better served ‘making a donation to beyondblue’.
And there’s no reason to stop there. There are plenty of charities and non-profit organisations which can do with an injection of your generosity. But you know the best part? Any investment you make pays dividends in the lives of those who these organisations help. And you can’t get better odds than that.