The Melbourne Cup is one of Australia's most celebrated and prestigious horse racing events with a history dating back to the first race held in 1861.
However, gambling, public drunkenness, and violence are all significant issues associated with the Melbourne Cup.
Gambling is a central aspect of the Melbourne Cup, with billions of dollars wagered each year. The event is notorious for encouraging excessive gambling, with many Australians betting on the horses and indulging in other forms of gambling such as online casinos. In 2015 it was reported that Australians had bet almost $1.5 billion on the race, with the betting platform, Tabcorp, seeing more than $400 million in revenue during the week of the Melbourne Cup.
In June 2023 it was reported that the Ten Network had pulled out of its bidding for broadcasting the Melbourne Cup, as a result of Tabcorp securing a deal with the Victoria Racing Club, allowing them to control all broadcasting rights. Sources speaking to The Guardian claim that the Ten Network's potential sponsors had expressed concerns about advertising during the Melbourne Cup alongside airspace dominated by gambling advertising.
Drunkenness & Violence
Public drunkenness is a major problem during the Melbourne Cup, with many race-goers consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. This behaviour can have serious consequences, including violence and accidents. The high levels of alcohol consumption during the Melbourne Cup have led to calls for stricter regulations on the sale of alcohol at the event.
Violence is also a significant issue associated with the Melbourne Cup, with incidents of assault and other violent behaviour reported each year. In 2022 it was reported that incidences of domestic violence also increased significantly on Melbourne Cup day.
In April 2023 it was announced that the Victorian state government was lifting its public drunkenness laws on the day of the Melbourne Cup for that year. The announcement was met with concern from Victorian police who feared "they will not have sufficient powers to act."
In addition to its negative societal impacts, the Melbourne Cup has been leveraged as an opportunity for the government of the time to "take out the trash," an expression referring to the government releasing unfavourable reports or information during a time when public attention is focused elsewhere. This tactic allows the government to divert public scrutiny and minimise the impact of potentially damaging revelations. An example of this was the release of the auditor's report into the Regional Jobs Scheme in 2019.