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Powerhouse Museum Expo: Gambling in Australia

A friend of mine, who lives in Sydney, came out to the States to visit and told me about a great exhibition he visited at the Powerhouse Museum in his hometown.  The Powerhouse is one of Sydney’s main attractions and, although it is described as a science museum, it actually contains a diverse range of collections, including, apparently, artifacts about gambling and the history of this form of entertainment in Australia.

Gambling is one of Australia’s best loved pastimes, and people Down Under spend more than any other nation, per capita (around $1200 a year), on gambling activities.  There are more gambling machines within Australia’s borders than any other country in the world and one fifth of the world’s gaming machines originate in Australia.  It comes as no surprise, then, that the exhibition about gambling at the Powerhouse Museum, entitled: Gambling in Australia: Thrills, Spills and Social Ills was such a big hit.

The exhibition took a look at the personalities who carved Australia’s gambling industry, as well as the controversies that shaped it over the years.  It looked at the issue of problem gambling, how it truly affects people on a personal level and society as a whole, and what the government has done in the past and has planned for the future to rectify this problem.  The expo’s educational component also aimed to educate young visitors about the dangers of over-gambling.

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum traced the origins of gambling from ancient days to modern days.  Visitors were educated about ancient dice games that originated in Egypt, Rome and China, as well as playing cards which originated in ancient Asia and which were brought over to Europe by Marco Polo.  Other interesting, albeit more modern, memorabilia were on display, including poker machines from the 1900s until modern days, bookmaker bags used by famous Australian bookies and others.  For those who like a more hands on approach to museum visiting, the expo also included interactive displays, where visitors could check out lottery probabilities and how other popular games work behind the scenes.

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