CUP RUNNETH OVER
THE CELEBRATION THAT COMES WITH THE RACE THAT STOPS A NATION MASKS A SOCIAL ISSUE THAT IS DESTROYING FAMILIES AND EVEN LIVES
Ever since coming to live in Australia I have found it intriguing how important the Melbourne Cup is for so many Aussies. It is a day of frocks, frills, fascinators and fizz for those who like to be involved. Lunches, picnics, afternoon teas or canapes and cocktails take place, often nowhere near a racecourse. It is a wonderful day to socialise. This can include networking in the corporate marquees or a catch-up with friends. It is a great opportunity to wear that special outfit that rarely sees the light of day the rest of the year. But it’s not for everyone and the thought of the crowds, the drinking, the betting and other shenanigans that are all part and parcel of the event can often be enough to put some off, me included. After the build-up it is quickly over: some may continue to celebrate and others may drown their sorrows. I wonder who actually benefits from the race that stops the nation. We have made heroes of the horses, jockeys and owners and defined their history in the mythology of the nation. That’s fine. However, the downside is that we reinforce an incredibly insidious behaviour that costs the nation, companies, individuals and families not only billions of dollars but destroys relationships and careers and undoubtedly contributes to the high suicide rate that we have in Australia. When I turn on the television and see advertisements for gambling included among the sporting programs and early news – ads that are seen by our children – I am very concerned about the lack of standards or the simple acceptance that this is the way to live life. These ads normalise a quick bet as a good thing, and setting up a gambling account is the way to go. About one in six Australians who play regularly have a serious addiction and lose on average about $21,000 a year, according to government data. The social cost of gambling to the community was estimated in September last year to be at least $4.7 billion a year. Enjoy the race, by all means, and the social fun that comes with it. However, keep in mind that the celebration hides a serious social issue that costs us all, and if we encourage or normalise this in our kids we create an even larger problem that no one is taking responsibility for. Tough gig isn’t it.