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ArtsBet. Our Prayers are Answered.

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Years of dwindling funding for the Arts could be a thing of the past after today’s launch of Artsbet. Sources say a consortium of high profile, phantom investors have been planning the launch of Artsbet for a number of years. The stunning success of Sportsbet in twisting the collective arms of the NSW and Queensland Governments into prematurely resuming the NRL Season, in defiance of all evidence and logic, has been the inspiration behind the launch’s fast tracking.

As Arts funding has been reduced to a trickle and a raft of companies have gone the wall, artists around the country were beginning to think that there was no future for the Arts in Australia. The advent of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns have closed theatres and performance venues, stopped film and television productions dead in their tracks and left thousands of artists around the country without any source of income. The government’s decision to deny these artists access to Jobseeker has been the nail in the coffin for many.

Sources say the government is secretly delighted by this development. 

“No one gives a shit about the arts, apart from a few lefties and doctor’s wives. If the arts can survive with the support of online gambling it will save me the trouble of sitting through hours of bloody theatre when I could be at the footy with the PM. I won’t have to pretend I am empathetic to the whining of the steady stream of celebrities who regularly make their way to Canberra to lobby on behalf a whole lot arty farty wankers. Although I did get to meet Russel Crowe once and I got a few brownie points from the missus after my selfie with Cate Blanchett’, said one.

Artsbet has the potential to completely revolutionise the way the arts are delivered in this country. They will no longer be the preserve of the privileged few but will become available to everyone. What’s really exciting is that Artsbet will introduce a whole new generation of young people to online gambling.

Here’s how it will work.

Let’s say you are going to the Sydney Theatre Company to watch Hamlet. Punters will be able to bet on where Hamlet enters at the beginning of the play. Will he enter stage right or stage left? Will he swing in on a rope? Will be drop down onto the battlements from an air balloon?

Bookies will take bets in the foyer. 

Artsbet will keep the performers on their toes. They will need to vary their performances from night to night so that punters are able to bet on what they’re wearing or where they are entering and exiting from without knowing in advance.

A number of artists I have spoken to are very excited about the prospect of changing their performance from night to night.

“When you do a six week season you can get a bit bored doing the same thing night in night, in night out. Tweeking a costume, say from a pair of tights to leg warmers, won’t necessarily affect the text or the meaning but it will keep the punters on the edge of their seats and give them something to bet on.”

The music industry is particularly excited by the advent of Artsbet. Punters lining up for a concert can bet on the set list for the night. Which song will the artist open with? Will they sit on a stool or lounge over the piano for an audience favourite?  Will they rip off their shirt or throw their hat into the audience on the second song of the encore? 

Sources close to the big symphony orchestras suggest that Artsbet could do the same for big recitals. Punters could bet on when the conductor takes pauses or turns to face the audience. They could have a wager on whether the chief soloist has her hair down, up or in a pony tail. Similarly ballet companies. A spokesperson for one major ballet company said dancers were very excited about the prospect of varying performances to enable Artsbet to lay odds on what leg they land on or how many pirouettes they do at a particular moment in the ballet. 

Quite apart from betting on live performances, punters will have to opportunity to bet on which plays or music recitals will be in a season, which actors or singers will be performing at a given venue on a given night, which writers or choreographers work will be programmed? 

Not only will the government be relieved of the pesky business of supporting the arts, they will receive handsome revenues from taxes for betting on the Arts.

As one source, close to the phantom consortium, told me,

“When I realised that Sportsbet had enough clout to force politicians to do their bidding I came to the conclusion that this was purely because the government was so dependent of gambling revenue. Artsbet can do the same for the arts and give us some leverage over our political masters. It’s very exciting. Audiences will feel as though they have a vested interest in the performance they are witnessing. People who don’t have the slightest interest in the arts will flock to them for the punt. School children will be able to work out odds and bet with toy money. We wouldn’t want them gambling irresponsibly, of course, with real money. It would be purely an educational exercise. An added bonus would be that many young people would continue playing after they leave school boosting both revenue and audience numbers.”

Small to medium theatre companies whose funding has been slashed will be able to rise like phoenixes from the ashes of financial despair. 

The sky’s the limit. Before we know the arts will be back on the front pages (or any pages) and the industry will thrive as it did for a few moments in the 70’s. After all, Racing NSW set a fine precedent by projecting horse races on the wings of the Opera House. It’s only a small step to let the punters inside the House have a wager on performances on its famous stages.

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