1998, Total Running Time 156 Minutes (6 x 26 Minutes)
A behind-the-scenes look at Australia’s number one obsession - gambling.
Gambling in Australia is in the midst of unprecedented change. In the past decade, punting has gone from a quaint cultural trait to a national obsession driven by transnational corporations and revenue-hungry governments. Today, there are more forms of legalised gambling in Australia than anywhere else in the world and Australians spend more on betting than people in any other nation.
Going behind the scenes of the gambling industry and into the lives of the gamblers themselves, The Gamblers looks at these extraordinary changes as they take place. The stories are told from the points of view of those on the frontlines—a casino executive, a race track manager, a bookie and a professional punter, a suicidal addict, and an anti-gambling crusader. Together, they tell the story of a nation gripped by gambling.
Casino The grand opening of Sydney's Star City Casino is a multi-million dollar promotional exercise for what's being billed as the latest in American-style mass entertainment. They'll need to bring 22,000 people through the doors every day—just to break even. This is the starting point for an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the marketing of Australia's newest casino. Following Promotions Manager Jason Chabi as he launches a campaign to give away twenty one cars in twenty one days, we see the daily running of a business with over 4000 staff, the bus loads of punters drawn to the action, and the always-watchful eyes of the security cameras. The excitement of the first big car giveaway takes an unexpected turn with the revelation of the winner's gambling obsession.
Punter and the Bookie, The Once the sport of kings, thoroughbred racing is rapidly being challenged by a vast array of other forms of gambling. With all of the mug punters off at the casinos, pokies and the TABs, all that's left at the track are a few big time bookies and a handful of professional punters brave enough to take them on. This high-octane episode takes us into the betting ring and follows two bookies playing out the daily war of nerves on the rails. One is an old time bookie who comes close to losing his shirt, while a big time punter walks away with $100,000. The other is a young punter who, strangely at a time when the business is dying, is going for his bookie's licence. The pace of competition builds to a heart thumping conclusion.
Hooked There are over 250,000 problem gamblers in Australia. Cheri and her partner Elvino are two of them. Cheri is desperate to quit, but it’s the lead up to Christmas, the hardest time of the year for the gambling addict. With two kids at home, the house has been mortgaged, the bills are unpaid and there’s nothing left to pawn. Last year, the boys didn’t get any Christmas presents and there was no food on the table. This year, they all hope things will be different, but, as Cheri says, “gamblers don’t give a damn about anybody but themselves”. Handled with unusual sensitivity and candour, this episode follows the emotionally charged and heart-rending story of two gamblers in big trouble.
Track, The The trots were once a big night out but now they’re racing to survive. Facing declining attendance and a waning interest in the sport of harness racing, the track is reinventing itself as a mass entertainment complex. Enter Peter V’Landys, the maverick manager of Harold Park Paceway in Sydney. He is betting that a multi-million dollar facelift and a snappy promotional style will turn things around. But trouble comes in the form of the local hockey club which says it was promised a field in the middle of the racetrack in exchange for land which was given to Harold Park by the local council. If Harold Park doesn’t provide the hockey field, the club threatens to blockade the famous Miracle Mile race. While battling to keep the track afloat, Peter goes one on one with the local community in an all out fight to the finish.
Crusader, The In the mid 1990s pokies invaded the pubs of South Australia, resulting in a surge in hotel profits and an explosion of gambling related problems. It also led to a pitched battle between the powerful pokies industry and an unlikely crusader - suburban lawyer, Nick Xenophon. Running on the 'No Pokies' ticket for the upper house in the SA parliament, Nick's well-intentioned and sometimes bumbling campaign often teeters on the brink. This episode follows his No Pokies crusade on the road with an oversized bus and a clunky campaign song, as he attempts to reach the public in shopping malls and on TV talk shows. This unusual and often droll look inside state politics pays off with some real surprises at the polling booth.
Offenders, The Gambling, both legal and illegal, has led to a marked rise in crime around Australia. Criminal activities include embezzlement, petty theft, and armed robbery by gamblers in debt, as well as loan sharking, money laundering, and illegal gaming houses run by organised crime. This episode follows the NSW Police as they raid illegal gambling dens in Sydney and tells the story of a few gambling addicts who have got themselves into big trouble with the law. Greg is serving five years for robbing a woman at knifepoint and stealing her car. Angelo, who has forged cheques and embezzled from his employer, is trying to stay clean and mend things with his family while reporting to a parole officer and attending weekly counselling. According to NSW Police Detective Inspector Bob Clark, “It all comes down to how much gambling we want as a society and what social costs we are willing to tolerate”.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Directors: Aviva Ziegler, Susan Lambert, Catherine Marciniak, Terry Carlyon
Total Running Time: 156 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Psychology and Addiction studies; Community services; Counselling; Health and Welfare; PDHPE; TAFE - Tourism and Hospitality 'Responsible Conduct of Gaming' (RCG).