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Sydney Opera House Promo: Yay or Neigh?

As a warm welcome to Responsible Gambling Awareness Week in New South Wales, the sails of Sydney Opera House are promoting a multi-million-dollar horse-racing event.

To recap, Sydney Opera House Chief Executive Louise Herron told Racing NSW late last week that their proposal to advertise The Everest Race on the Sydney Opera House sails will be met with strict rules. They could only show jockey colours, but no names, logos or branding. Then comes in 2GB shock-jock Alan Jones, who called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to sack Herron after a fiery exchange with her on-air.

Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V’landys also joined the heated interview. Later in the day, Berejiklian ordered Herron to honour the proposal, which prompted a change.org petition to arise. The petition calls to stop the whole advertisement going ahead, and currently sits well over 250,000 signatures.

Then The Chaser decided to take it one step further and project Alan Jones’ supposed mobile number on the sails to parody the whole thing.

According to Herron, the reason for the strict rules is based on their Illumination of Sydney Opera House Sails Policy, effective 2012. The policy states no logos, brands or colours promoting a brand are allowed, and that, “unless for a specific artistic purpose in relation to Sydney Opera House,” text or slogans are forbidden.

The promotion may also be illegal: “National Trust NSW Conservation Director Graham Quint says projecting commercial material onto the Opera House contravenes state laws,” states this SBS article.

Following all this commotion, Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys wrote a comment piece for Sydney Morning Herald to share his argument. In it, he stands firm that the advertisement will promote The Everest Race, “not gambling”, while also pointing out that many people who attend the races don’t bet at all. It must be said here that the primary partner for The Everest is betting agency TAB, which begs the question of whether promoting The Everest goes hand-in-hand with promoting gambling.

The actual promotion, according to V’landys, features “the trophy, the colour of the jockey silks and the barrier the horse has drawn.” This is close to in-line with what was originally proposed by Louise Herron. But, according to the Sydney Opera House policy, the barrier number breaches the use of text. V’landys also made the point that their final product “will now be considerably less than what has been displayed to promote other events on the Opera House sails.”

It is true that other commercial entities have advertised on the Opera House sails. Sport events like The Ashes and teams like the Wallabies have been displayed on the sails, with the former showing sports colours and the winning trophy while the latter showed the Wallabies logo. Samsung also did a promotion in 2013, asking Australians to send in pictures of what it means to be an Australian. As seen below, no logos, brands or branding colours were displayed, respecting the Sydney Opera House illumination policy.

Other promoted events have been Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as well as the city’s annual festival of light, Vivid; neither showing any branding, texts or logos.

Then there’s the added irony that the Sydney Opera House was itself funded by gambling with the NSW State Lottery. According to Lottoland, the State Lottery was created during the Great Depression “to help alleviate the state’s financial burden and help fund medical facilities.” In fact, both of Sydney Harbour’s greatest icons, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, were funded by the lottery.

As for the event itself, which will now see an increased police presence, the actual number draw will be displayed for around 10 minutes. The rest of the time will be devoted to a light show “which has nothing to do with the event,” according to Peter V’landys.

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