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Why Was Mike Baird Called "Casino Mike"?

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Mike Baird was the Premier of New South Wales from April 2014 to January 2017. During his time in office he implemented a number of controversial policies, including the lockout laws, which restricted the sale of alcohol in Sydney's CBD. These laws were widely criticised, and many people believed that they were designed to benefit the state's casinos. As a result of these policies, Mr. Baird was given the nickname in the media "Casino Mike."

Former NSW Premier, Mike Baird, standing in front of a mural of himself depicted as "Casino Mike," raising a glass of wine in front of casino chips, painted by Scott Marsh. The text "Casino Mike" is foregrounded.

The nickname "Casino Mike" stuck and it became a symbol of Baird's perceived corruption and lack of accountability. In 2012, Mr. Baird oversaw the process that resulted in the granting of the license to James Packer's Crown Resorts, which proposed building a casino (The Star) at Barangaroo on the shores of Sydney Harbour.

The decision was controversial and sparked public debate over the potential social and economic impacts of a second casino in the state. Critics accused Baird of being too close to the gambling industry and questioned the transparency of the licensing process. Baird defended the decision, stating that it would create jobs and boost tourism in the state.

Furthermore the nickname was related to the controversy over the Baird Government’s lockout laws, which resulted in alcohol being banned from sale after 10pm, entry to bars and clubs being banned after 1:30am, and drinks barred from being sold at venues past 3am. Mr. Baird defended the decision as a strategy to reduce city violence. However, the site for The Star was exempt from these laws and business owners and community members attacked its exemption as hypocritical.

Sean Nicholls for The Sydney Morning Herald explained the nickname thus:

"Not that Baird is a secret gambler and drinker who regularly hits the high roller tables at The Star, because that's not the point of the "Casino Mike" tag. Rather, it's the way The Star and James Packer's planned casino at Barangaroo are treated under the state's liquor laws that has convinced many that Baird is showing them favourable treatment."

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