Against all odds: a big week for gamblers

Millions of Australians have been betting online this week. (Photo: Ankita Sharma)

It’s been a lucky week for the Gold Coast retiree who became the sole winner of Thursday’s $60 million Powerball jackpot – the third biggest pay-out in the game’s history. But while the total prize purse was more than $87 million, the fact remains that for every single winner there are millions of losers.

One in five Australians plays Powerball. (Photo: Ankita Sharma)

Especially this week.

Powerball was just one of the many back-to-back events on this week’s gambling calendar. There was also the Melbourne Cup Carnival and its Derby Day, Cup Day, Oaks Day and Stakes Day, and Diwali –  the Indian Festival of Light. A tradition linked to prosperity, and card games.

Not everyone finds lady luck of course.

Research company, Roy Morgan, found that 7.7 million Australians played the lotteries in the past year. In releasing its Gambling Currency Report in September, CEO Michele Levine said the biggest splurges were reserved for jackpot week.

“The prospect of a life-changing lotto win is massively enhanced and attracts Australians in droves in search of a lucky ticket,” she said.

According to Tatts Lotteries, one in every five Australians was expected to enter this week’s Powerball.

Even the country’s newest jackpot winner has been playing the game since it started 22 years ago, reportedly never winning more than $600. When lottery officials rang him with the good news, the unnamed Burleigh Heads resident said: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about what I would do if I won $60 million.”

“It’s a dream. You enter it and you don’t expect to win it.”

The Melbourne Cup may have finished well for Cross Counter, jockey Kerrin McEvoy and the international Godolphin stable, but the more than seven million dollars in prize-money on offer for the first 12 horses past the post, pales when compared to the up to $95 million dollars punters have wagered during previous cup carnivals.

The rise of online betting apps has seen an increase in the number of Australians gambling from their homes – a fact highlighted by the crash of several sports-betting sites in the lead-up to Tuesday’s big race. The trend was also noted by Roy Morgan’s researchers earlier this year.

“The prevalence of sports betting apps allows Australians to gamble from the comfort of their own couch, on the wide open road, or even from the stands at the game.” – Roy Morgan, Gambling Currency Report, April 2018

Just as the Melbourne Cup is part of Australia’s sporting culture, so too is Diwali a significant ritual in Indian culture.

Mini oil lamps called Divas decorate homes on Diwali. (Photo: Ankita Sharma)

This week, thousands of Indian Australians embellished their homes with oil-lit lamps and indulged in card games.

It’s a tradition that’s centuries old and is designed to invite Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth, to bless the home and future generations.

Black Jack and Poker are played for money and instead of being a practice that’s frowned upon, younger relatives are encouraged to gamble strategically. If the cards are dealt in their favour, it means they can be liberal with their spending during the festive season.

For many Australians, every week is a big week when it comes to gambling. Gambling is also associated with poor mental health and is considered a public health issue.

Support groups exist to help those struggling with a betting or gambling problem.

If you, or someone you know, needs help – you can contact any of the services recommended by the NSW Government. Story, Ankita Sharma – Editing, Sue Stephenson

 Gambling Support Services