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You can bet on Good Friday -

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You can bet on Good Friday

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 March , 2009 12:42:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: Australians are renowned for their love of betting, but up until now they haven't
been able to punt on the two most religious days in the Christian year.

But that's about to change.

The TAB has infuriated leaders of the Christian Church by deciding to allow its outlets to open on
Good Friday.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: Traditionally, punters have had to find something else to do on Good Friday and
Christmas Day.

But this Easter, the TV sets in TABs across New South Wales and Victoria will carry betting on two
Australian rugby league matches as well as horse racing from Singapore and South Africa.

(Sound of race commentary)

Tabcorp says it would like local racetracks to eventually open on Good Friday.

ROBERT NASON: We believe that should be an opportunity for race clubs to consider that. There are
restrictions, in terms of both government policy and racing industry policy in some states. We did
have some interest expressed around the country to race, and I do anticipate over time that we may
see some level of afternoon, twilight racing occurring on Good Friday in the future.

SIMON SANTOW: But in the meantime Tabcorp says its decision to open betting outlets is a move to
satisfy demand.

The company's managing director for wagering is Robert Nason.

ROBERT NASON: We've researched our customer base, and it was something that came out of our focus
groups that our customers asked us to have a look at this. There are a number of our competitors
that do offer wagering services on that day; the corporate bookmakers in the Northern Territory
have been doing it for ten years, and of course there are other gambling services, poker machines,
casinos, that are open during the afternoon of Good Fridays, and we're providing an international
race program for our customers on the afternoon and evening of Good Friday.

SIMON SANTOW: Church groups have condemned the move.

Anglican Bishop of south Sydney, Rob Forsyth.

ROB FORSYTH: Good Friday is the day in which God showed his love for us in his son dying for us,
and in which God began the great work of restoring the universe.

And frankly, I think betting on the day is trivialising it. I'm not asking for the law to stop
people; I think people need to have the freedom - this is a free country - in these matters.

SIMON SANTOW: Where is the responsibility? Is it incumbent upon the TAB to make these decisions?

ROB FORSYTH: Well, the soldiers who crucified Jesus, we are told cast lots for his clothing. It's a
kind of rather ominous precedent, I would have thought, for gambling on Good Friday.

The real question is this: If at the end of the day Good Friday is like any other day, ultimately
you got to ask the question, 'Why is it a holiday?' You see it's only a holiday because of its
Christian meaning. If you completely gut the Christian meaning, then I think there's a good
question to ask, 'Why are we having a holiday?'

SIMON SANTOW: The Roman Catholic Church is equally disappointed.

Spokesman, Father Brian Lucas.

BRIAN LUCAS: Well, I think we live in certainly a multi-cultural society, which means that those
people who don't have religious views, or to respect the rights of those who do and not force them
to have to work. It's all very well to talk about the choice of people who participate in these
activities, but the people who are forced to work don't get any choice.

Holidays, that comes from its origin as a 'holy day'. I don't think it's too much to expect that
certain commercial and secular interests put those aside for a few days a year to respect the
rights of those people who have religious views.

SIMON SANTOW: Should the State Government be stepping in fairly quickly here?

BRIAN LUCAS: Well, governments regulate things for the good of everybody, and this might be a
matter the Government may wish to look at.

SIMON SANTOW: Both the New South Wales and Victorian Governments describe Tabcorp's move as a
'business decision'.

And they have no plans to stop Tabcorp from opening its betting outlets.

Tabcorp's Robert Nason is treading carefully when asked if betting on Christmas Day is now on the
cards.

ROBERT NASON: We're not contemplating Christmas Day, and I don't see that as being a realistic
prospect. Firstly because there's no sporting events or race events to wager upon in the first
place, and we don't think demand would be there. But I think Good Friday is a different story.

ELEANOR HALL: Robert Nason from Tabcorp ending that report by Simon Santow.