Gambling is Australia’s favourite recreational activity and the latest figures show that in 2018, Australians spent over AUD20 billion on electronic gaming machines, lotto, and other forms of gambling, with around AUD590 million contributing to the country’s economy. Almost eight out of 10 Australians gamble in some form, and with the growth of online casinos, the numbers playing for real money is higher than ever.
Whether gambling is a cherished cultural tradition, a symbol of a country’s rebellious spirit, or the product of an extraordinary marketing strategy, Australia is the gambling capital of the world with vast sums being spent on video poker machines, known locally as the “pokies”. With the introduction of online casinos and particularly live dealer baccarat, the industry continues to grow. With gambling such a strong part of Australian culture, it is surprising that the number of movies on the subject is quite small.
Wake in Fright / Outback (1971)
Based on the novel “Wake in Fright” by Kenneth Cook, “Outback” directed by Ted Kotcheff, tells the story of a young schoolteacher visiting the little outback community of Bundanyabba, where the local population fill their days with drinking, gambling and not much else. John initially disapproves of the locals, but gradually becomes one of them. This slow-paced, moody movie gives a real feeling of the geographical isolation and the heat of an Australian summer. The photography is stunning, the music superb and all cast members deliver great performances.
This movie directed by Alex Cox sees Philip (Vincent D’Onofrio), suffering from severe depression, entering a casino and enjoying a winning streak on a roulette wheel. What follows in this finely tuned and taut script is how friends behave once you are rich beyond imagination. The film has an all-star including cast including Rebecca De Mornay, Saverio Guerra, Delroy Lindo, Michael Madsen and Billy Bob Thornton, but Cox has mashed the script and one can only wonder what could be done with the script in the right director’s hands.
Oscar and Lucinda (1997)
This movie adaptation of the novel by Peter Carey introduces young priest Oscar who gambles strategically to win, which he then spends on charity. Lucinda is the heiress of a large fortune and owns a glass factory as she loves products made of fragile glass. Lucinda begins to enjoy gambling and the two meet over a game of cards. After this, Oscar’s gambling stops being successful, and he becomes broke and he ends up working in Lucinda’s glass factory. The couple makes the craziest bet of their lives, which completely changes their future.
Lucky You (2007)
This movie, loved by poker players, follows a professional poker player Huck played by Eric Bana and his father L.C. Cheever played by Robert Duvall. Huck plays a risky game to win. In the behind-the-scenes bonus features, several professional players have commented on the realism of the gambling scenes. The movie is not all about poker, but about the mentally of those who make gambling their life. There is also a small romance sub-plot involving Drew Barrymore. Huck decides to participate in the World Championship, but his father and his debts to almost everyone he knows could stand in the way of his success.
Dirty Deeds (2002)
Set in Sydney in 1969, Dirty Deeds directed by David Caesar is based on gangster Barry Ryan who runs several underground casinos just how he wants with even Detective Ray unable to stop him. However, once the Chicago mafia arrives in the city and finds out how wealthy Barry is, they want in on the action.