You are here: Home / Media / Russell Crowe dumps cheerleaders for children

Russell Crowe dumps cheerleaders for children

First Russell Crowe made the decidedly un-Hollywood move of dismissing the cheerleaders at his Sydney rugby league club. Now, continuing his campaign to make the game more family-friendly, the Oscar-winning actor has succeeded in banning gaming machines from the premises of the club, rejecting them as a social evil reports Paul Larter in Brisbane for The Times of London on 21 December 2007.

Crowe and Peter Holmes à Court, a millionaire businessman who co-owns the South Sydney Rabbitohs club with the actor, persuaded the club’s board yesterday to take the financially risky step of scrapping the 160 machines, known in Australia as “pokies”. The machines bring in A$1 million (£430,000) for the club every year – which is believed to constitute as much as 85 per cent of its revenues.

The actor and Mr Holmes à Court, who joined forces last year to take a 75 per cent stake in the club for A$3 million, argued that reliance on gaming machines had adverse effects on the community of Redfern, a key support base for the club in inner Sydney. Half the club’s gaming income has come from people on social security. The club will rely on attracting new members to a redeveloped club complex.

In a letter to club members in September, the pair said: “We are not moralising here, we just believe that low-income areas like Redfern need [fewer] poker machines rather than more. We believe a club can be successful if it caters for our members and the broad community; is a place where families can gather for conversation and good food; and the distracting din of pokies doesn’t stop the conversation or drown out live music.”

The move reflects growing concern in Australia at the social impact of such devices, which in metropolitan Sydney alone turn over A$2.4 billion. Kevin Rudd, the new Prime Minister, has criticised the dependence of state governments on gaming machine taxes and has promised to break their hold. Even so, his political opponents point out that the gambling industry is a leading donor to his Labor Party.

The states collect about A$4 billion a year in taxes from gaming machines. In the states of New South Wales and Victoria, these taxes represent between 12 and 15 per cent of annual budgets and New South Wales is said to have 10 per cent of the world’s poker machines – more than the United States. The most recent national study of gaming estimated that 330,000 Australians had severe or moderate gambling problems and that 70 per cent were addicted to poker machines. “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families,” Mr Rudd said.

Crowe has micromanaged many of the presentational changes at South Sydney, designing the club kit and dressing players in Armani suits off the field. In February Crowe replaced cheerleaders with a drumming band after his wife, Danielle Spencer, and other fans complained that they made women uncomfortable.

Members must vote on the proposal to remove slot machines, but it has received overwhelming public support.

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe bans gaming machines at his ...