It definitely feels time for us to question whether it is right to hold all of our biggest award nights and conferences at casinos.
Both Crown and Star have allegedly been involved in the laundering of money from criminal activities, and worse than this, they consciously exploit people when they are at their most vulnerable. We know that gambling is a major cause of financial hardship, bankruptcy, crime, domestic abuse, divorce and suicide. Are we comfortable with people who have suffered these outcomes (together with alleged drug dealers and traffickers) helping to finance our award nights and conferences?
Attending industry functions at casinos has always made me feel uncomfortable, partly because of my personal experience. Our company was robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars by an ex-gambling addict whose mother ended up having to sell her house to return our money. These stories are incredibly common, though none of us want to admit it for the fear of not appearing diligent. A large percentage of white collar crime is committed to fund a gambling habit, and I know of two other production companies that have also been victims of white collar fraud perpetrated by gamblers.
Another reason this has come to a head for us is that we’ve just produced Big Deal (October 19 and 26 on ABC at 8.30pm) which looks at the way corporate money has influenced politicians in making decisions against the interests of the community, and the gambling industry is one of the big offenders.
There is now a huge opportunity for our industry to once again lead the way and provide inspiration for other industries, to be at the forefront of doing right by our community, and to be on the right side of history.
The good news is that some of the people who lead our industry bodies feel exactly the same way and are busy looking for alternatives. The bad news is that it’s difficult. There are existing contracts in place and casinos offer great facilities at a good rate. This is because we offer a very high profile endorsement and social license is created by trustworthy brands, organisations and people.
There may be cost implications and casinos offer some (cheap) glamour but what is the human cost of this glamour? In Sydney, we have alternative venues such as the Opera House, Carriageworks and ICC Sydney. We need to support different venues. The government also has a responsibility to support these alternatives and to stop relying on casinos to build new facilities.
Let’s be the industry to break out and take a stand. I’ll be the first to clap as will all those whose lives have been destroyed by casinos and gambling. This feels like something we don’t want to be left behind on. I just can’t believe many in our industry will feel okay anymore about turning up to venues run by corporations that live off the misery of others, no matter how shiny our frocks and suits.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on the above, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected]
Jason Burrows is the CEO of Jungle Entertainment.