Gambling and the arts have had an on-and-off, quiet, comfortable relationship in Sydney for quite a while now. The Sydney Opera House was funded largely through the Opera House lotteries (over $100 million was raised for construction), and one of the biggest commercial theatres, the Lyric, exists as part of a casino. And it’s not just in Sydney; performance spaces abound in casinos around the world, and in the UK, the National Lottery has injected around 2 billion pounds into the arts over the last 20 years. But given what we know about the pervasive and destructive force of gambling, is it a relationship arts companies should be willing to continue?
James Packer this week announced a $60 million Sydney Arts Fund, as part of the Crown Resorts Foundation, one of the casino’s corporate social responsibility programs. Some $30 million will go towards Sydney Arts institutions, with Sydney Theatre Company and Art Gallery of NSW the big winners. A further $30 million will go to Western Sydney arts projects.