Last Saturday, all ACCESS members received a paid email from the University of Sydney Union (USU) promoting the TAB Everest Race Day with a free performance by the pop star Jason Derulo.
The Everest is sponsored by TAB — one of the largest betting providers in Australia — and the race grounds feature numerous opportunities for betting.
The NSW Betting and Racing Regulation prohibits “gambling advertising that promotes the consumption of alcohol while engaging in gambling activity”. It also requires all gambling advertisements to include the web and phone details of Gambling Help NSW, which was not included in the USU’s email.
The USU email also features an ad for the ‘Heineken 3 House’, a sponsored bar, and a prominent image of three racegoers toasting their beers in front of a Heineken logo.
USU President Courtney Thompson believes that the email does not promote gambling.
“In terms of promoting gambling, there is no direct reference to gambling anywhere in the content of the [email]”, Thompson said.
Graeme Hinton, chief operating officer of Racing NSW, which runs the TAB Everest, agrees with Thompson and added that “Heineken was not involved in any way with the email and there is no intention to promote their product”.
Earlier this year, TAB plead guilty to two breaches of the Betting and Racing Regulation after it handed out packets of jelly beans with promotional messages to commuters at Martin Place and Town Hall. The lolly packets did not include a disclaimer encouraging responsible gambling and may have been given to people under 18.
In its promotions for the Everest, TAB has courted similar controversy by handing out packets of Byron Bay cookies at train stations.
Greens MLC Justin Field, who is the party’s spokesperson on gambling, referred the TAB to the government regulator for the jelly bean breach.
Honi understands that his office has asked the regulator to investigate this new round of promotions, though it is not clear that any laws have been breached.
In its annual report, Racing NSW notes that it received almost $80 million from gambling providers in return for access to racing events. That number does not include sponsorship, broadcast rights and other fees.
According to market research firm IBISWorld, the racing and gambling industries are facing an audience that increasingly prefers digital entertainment to the races. To preserve their market, the gambling and racing industries need to draw in young new punters.
The USU’s audience of 18 to 25 year olds is a perfect fit for the industry’s needs.
Thompson defended the USU’s decision to promote the event. “Our main objective is to always ensure students have access to discounts and events that we think they might be interested in. And when you consider the diversity of our membership, that encompasses quite a lot.”
“Thoroughbred racing is an entertainment event open to all ages”, Hinton said. “Like other sports, wagering on racing is popular but not the only activity on a racecourse and not part of our messaging in this email in anyway.”
There are undoubtedly some students who enjoy the races purely for the fashion and horseflesh. For others, that is likely not the case. In the most recent data from the NSW Office of Liquor and Gaming, horse and dog betting was the second most popular form of gambling for problem gamblers.