Unique strategy to convince thousands of Australians to get vaccinated.

The Australian government has disguised the COVID-19 vaccination booking service as a sports gambling App in an effort to trick reluctant citizens into registering for the jab.

The world-first initiative is being hailed as a creative strategy to fool hesitant citizens into registering for the COVID-19 vaccine, at a time when almost half the nation is in some form of lockdown or even under curfew.

The App is called OddBetter and was developed in order to tap into the enormous popularity of sports gambling in the country.

“Refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is a huge gamble, and OddBetter is a brilliant, creative solution to a complicated problem,” announced the Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

“The world-first initiative will encourage reluctant Australians to get vaccinated, which will in turn allow the country to open up and to return to some form of normal. Sports betting is a popular activity in Australia and this App taps into Australia’s love of sport and our love of a punt.”

The App has the appearance and functionality of a conventional sports betting App. It offers betting choices on a wide range of results in a wide range of sports. It differs from legitimate gambling Apps in that every time a user places a bet, they have actually sent their personal details to the government health system and automatically registered their name for a vaccination for either Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca or Moderna.

“Users will not be charged any money at any stage of this process,” stressed Hunt. “They will be required to register a credit card in order to use the App, like any sports gambling service, but this will be used only to cross reference other personal details and to confirm the user’s identity. Once an identity is confirmed, health authorities will also know if the person has or hasn’t been vaccinated.”

The minister then explained that punters using Odd Better will ‘win’ or ‘lose’ money inside the App, but that this ‘OddBetter currency’ is not real and will not add or subtract from their bank balance in the real word.

“It’s like electronic Monopoly money.”

Of course, finding a way to make people register for a jab is only part of the process.

“Once registered, we still need people to actually turn up and get the vaccination. So, the App has been designed to shut out any user who does not honour their appointment. They will then be advised to show proof of vaccination in order to resume using the App. Also, punters who have already been vaccinated will not receive an appointment notification.”

The minister was asked what had been done to prevent users from simply turning to another gambling site once they are shut out of OddBetter for not being vaccinated.

“Two things. One, we will offer the impossibly good odds on every bet, as well as more options on more sports than any other gambling company – we can do so because our service is not real. Secondly, we know that Aussie punters have an insatiable appetite for gambling – which is why there are at least 70 online gambling sites in the country.”

Hunt was also asked whether announcing the App publicly and writing a press release would expose it’s inauthenticity and thus render it redundant, to which he replied:

“Most anti-vaxxers and vaccine-hesitant people don’t read – they just take all their health advice from social media influencers, or people like George Christensen, Clive Palmer or Craig Kelly.”

Image: Daniel Schludi

Making friends at Happy Valley Racecourse.

These gamblers are messy, I thought, as I searched for place to sit and watch the next race on the program at Hong Kong’s Happy Valley Racecourse. There was the usual detritus of betting stubs and plastic cups scattered over the ground, but what stood out were the newspapers left lying on the empty seats in the grandstand; lots of them.

Can’t they find a bin? Better still, a recycling bin.

I should have been used to rubbish and poor hygiene by now, because I’d spent two months in China before arriving in the Fragrant Harbour, but I was still surprised that punters had made absolutely no effort to put their form guides in the bin – or take them home to study.

The race was about to start and I wanted to sit down. I had no money riding on the result and had no idea how to place a bet at the course even if I’d wanted to – it looked complicated.

I was at Happy Valley for the spectacle and the experience. Horse racing is famous in Hong Kong and some of the world’s best jockeys, trainers and horses descend upon the track every year in search of a big pay day. It’s also a convenient place for expats to socialise and have a few drinks after work. Most of the revellers probably didn’t even look at a horse all evening.

I’d spent some time wandering the facility and observing a few of the horses in the mounting yard, and just watching the goings on at this internationally famous course. Then I decided that I really should watch a horse race if I am at a racecourse.

The upper tier of the grandstand seemed to offer the best view of the whole course, so I climbed the steps and searched for a seat near the betting counters. That’s when I noticed the newspapers. There was enough litter to rival a school playground.

I searched and searched for a seat at the top few rows, but most of the seats that were not occupied by a person were occupied by a newspaper.

Easy, I thought. I’ll just move a newspaper.

So I did, and I planted myself on a seat with an acceptable view of the course and the impending race. The announcer listed the names of the horses and the tension grew in the grandstand. The revelling expats below continued drinking and chatting obliviously but the real racing fans chewed their nails and focussed intently on the track.

The final horse was led into the starting gates and the starter was at the ready. Punters held their breath.

Racing…

Then I heard a voice behind me. I didn’t understand the language, I did understand the tone. I turned around to see a middle-aged local man gesturing angrily in my direction. Gesturing angrily at me.

What had I done?

The ear bashing continued and the gesticulations became more animated. I had really annoyed this guy and he was not happy. He glared at me between panicked glances at the race that was well underway and was now being led by the horse in the pink vest with black sleeves, ahead of the jockey sporting and black and white check with purple helmet. The colours meant nothing to me but they clearly meant something to my new friend who was now highly agitated.

He continued berating me and I still had no idea why.

Then he advanced towards me, pushed past me and grabbed the newspapers I had moved just minutes ago. He snatched at the paper which was open at the form guide and scanned it as if to see whether any alterations had been made. He appeared satisified. Satisfied at the state of the paper, but not satisfied with me. He was still very angry.

After further verbal admonition and much bilingual gesturing, he had conveyed to me that leaving a newspaper on the seat was the accepted method of reserving a seat at Happy Valley Racecourse.

Thou shalt not move the punter’s paper

Hence the abundance of newpapers.

Oooops.

I apologised profusely and politely. I know he didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Cantonese, but I think my words and my guilty countenance broke through the language barrier.

I don’t know much about racing but I know that very serious money is gambled at Hong Kong races, and I had to assume that the gentleman I had upset was one of the people risking some of this serious money. I wonder how much he’d bet on that race.

Scolded and contrite, I left my seat and I left my new-found friend to contemplate his fate and his bank balance. The black and white checked shirt crossed the line first but I didn’t hang around to see if this was good news or bad news for my new buddy.

I strolled among the crowd of expats and heard familiar smatterings of intoxicated British and Australian accents. I watched the next race from the safety of the expat throng, then I decided to leave the course because I heard smatterings of intoxicated British and Australian accents.