Australians love a good gamble, and why shouldn’t we? Supposedly we are the lucky country, and everyone who gambles always believes they are due a big win.
This fun-loving, family-destroying, attitude all comes to a nags-head on Melbourne Cup Day, with workplaces everywhere organising office sweeps. For one glorious, day-drinking Tuesday in November, almost every office in Australia becomes its own little gambling den. On this day, the usually stern and uncompromising laws that restrict when and how we gamble decide to turn a blind eye to the legality, or otherwise, of office-based gambling, allowing us all to play in an office sweep.
Now, full disclosure time. I do not like gambling, particularly on horse races. I feel that this ‘sport’ involves jockeys whipping horses much more than I think is reasonable. What is a reasonable amount of whipping, you ask? How about zero whipping. How about for every time a jockey whips his or her horse, he or she should whip him or herself as well, just as hard. If that was a rule of horse racing, it might make me soften my views. But enough of my disclosing. Let’s find out how you and your work buddies can legally bet on the race that stops the nation.
Each state and territory has its own laws on office sweeps. The same laws cover pretty much all other types of ‘fun’ gambling that might take place in an office, at a club, or at a sports group, like raffles and even the humble game of Bingo.
Firstly, if you live in Queensland, Tasmania, or the Northern Territory, then you might as well stop reading this section after this paragraph. Unless your workplace gets approved by the relevant gambling authority in those states (or territory), you cannot legally hold any type of sweep in the office, or anywhere else, at any time, even on Melbourne Cup Day. Your office would first need to be approved as an ‘association’ as only associations can legally hold sweeps. To get an approval, someone in your office will need to complete and submit an application, pay registration fees, agree to follow hundreds of rules, and so on. That process takes all the fun out of the office sweeps process, which is meant to be a spontaneous and relaxed way of bonding in the workplace on Melbourne Cup Day.
The other states and territories allow office workers (and everyone else, of course) to legally hold a sweep on Melbourne Cup Day, although there are a few variations between them that are worth mentioning while we’re here.
The laws on office sweeps in Western Australia and South Australia are straightforward enough, as far as these things go. Small, private lotteries, where tickets are sold to people at the same workplace, and where value of the prize pool is under $2,000, do not require a licence. So sweep away, West Australians and South Australians, legally and happily. Just keep the maximum amount that can be won under your Cup Day sweep to under $2,000.
In our nation’s capital, a permit is not required where the total prize value of the sweep is less than $2,500. However, your workplace does need to comply with a bunch of straightforward rules, like conducting the sweep openly and fairly. So long as the sweep is not rigged (like the US election, am I right, Mr Trump?) and the prize pool is less than $2,500, you can legally hold an office sweep in your Canberra office on Melbourne Cup Day.
New South Wales is much less frugal than the other states and territories when it comes to prize money for sweeps. You can have an office sweep with a maximum prize pool of up to $20,000 before you need to get a licence. However, under New South Wales law you can’t just hold sweeps willy-nilly, on any old thing. An office sweep is only legal when held for ‘approved events’, which includes (of course) the Melbourne Cup. Just to give you an idea of what the other ‘approved events’ are, they include the Bathurst 1,000 (a car race, I think), a bunch of horse and dog races, and my personal favourite and the highlight of my social calendar each year: the Armidale Snail Races (conducted by the Armidale Branch of the Challenge Foundation of New South Wales). Hopefully there is no whipping of snails as part of this feature event.
The home of the Melbourne Cup, Victoria, has very relaxed rules on sweeps, as you might expect. Make sure your office sweep’s maximum prize pool is less than $5,000, and you’re good to go. None of this ‘approved events’ shit that goes on in New South Wales. But then again, Victoria does not have any major snail racing events that I am aware of, so New South Wales still wins in my view.
Finally, your office Melbourne Cup Day sweep can award prizes other than money but be careful. Most states and territories that allow office sweeps still have legal limits on what types of prizes can be awarded. These laws take a pretty dim view on prizes of tobacco, firearms, ammunition, knives, cosmetic surgery, and other medical procedures to improve someone’s physical appearance. Prizes of alcohol beyond a certain litre limit are also frowned upon by these laws (although the ‘limits’ are pretty high – you can win up to twenty litres of alcohol in an approved sweep in New South Wales, to take one example).
Though if your office sweep has prizes of plastic surgery, you might want to take a good long hard look at what type of place you are working for. You are beautiful just the way you are, I promise!