The Melbourne Cup is either a colourful and unifying sporting spectacle or a macabre celebration of gambling culture, alcohol and animal cruelty. It’s the race that stops a nation — and some get pretty angry about it.

Let’s agree it’s probably both. And we’ll be having a little punt and tipple in here, let’s be honest.

But the economics are worth remembering. Among the novelty statistics the media love for events like this — chicken consumption was eagerly reported by ABC News this morning — is a rather stark one: your little $2 bet each way today is expected to add up to a national gambling outlay of $800 million. On the Cup alone.

The mind boggles on where that sort of cash could be better spent.

Just saying …