Crucial questions about funding remain unanswered in the hours before the Sydney Opera House advertises a $13 million horse race on its sails.
The New Daily asked whether the Opera House would be left with a profit after Racing NSW covers costs for projecting its ad for The Everest race on Tuesday night.
Racing NSW declined to give further details of the deal, while the Opera House deferred questions to the government. Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office did not respond.
It remains unclear why the government brokered a deal to use the Opera House as a compromise, after racing boss Peter V’landys said a year of negotiations centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Public backlash against the “commercialisation” of the world heritage asset is growing.
The Opera House raked in $6.9 million in corporate sponsorship deals, including contra support, in financial year 2016-17. That represents about 6 per cent of its revenue, according to its latest annual report.
Partnerships came from corporations like luxury car maker Maserati, Mastercard, Intel, Etihad Airways, Adobe, Google, Airbnb and Samsung.
Maserati was event partner for the All About Women festival, while Etihad flew members of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra to Sydney.
The Opera House sails have previously been used to promote its partnership with Samsung.
That’s despite policy saying, “no logo or corporate identity shall be permitted to be projected onto the sails”.
The conservation management plan says the sails “should not be regarded as a giant billboard or commercial / advertising opportunity”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said the site was Sydney’s “biggest billboard”.
Ms Berejiklian overruled the Opera House CEO Louise Herron after she rejected the application. But she did offer to merely display colours for The Everest.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley supports the advertisement, and had earlier campaigned for the race to be promoted on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Guardian on Monday night reported Racing NSW had floated the idea of a half-day public holiday for The Everest with Mr Foley. The Labor leader was reportedly non-committal.
The racing industry added $96.323 million in revenue to state government coffers in 2016-17, according to the Australian Gambling Statistics.
That was a decrease on previous years after a racing tax cut brought NSW into line with Victoria. It will cost taxpayers $235 million over five years.
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Sydney is not alone
Melbourne’s premier public space Federation Square was rented out to the racing industry in the days and weeks before many of its residents scolded the NSW government.
“The event space was sold to Racing Victoria purely as a venue hire,” a square spokesperson told The New Daily.
The “Spring Racing activation” did not require government consent.
Champion racehorse Winx was also projected onto Flinders Street Station last Friday night.
Racing Victoria met costs but no further payment was made.
— Racing Victoria (@RacingInsider) October 5, 2018
Mr V’landys said he had been negotiating with four government departments for a year to use the harbour bridge.
He said the government offered the opera house at the last minute.
In a statement provided to The New Daily, Mr V’landys rejected claims that 2GB radio host Alan Jones had anything to do with Ms Berejiklian’s intervention.
Jones on Monday defended his spray at Ms Herron on Friday, just hours before Ms Berejiklian overruled her.
It’s understood Racing NSW figures have received death threats. A NSW Police spokesperson told The New Daily no formal report had been received.
The promotion includes video of the 10-minute barrier draw, plus a light show. It will also include an image of the trophy and the colour of jockey silks.
The opera house has previously been used to celebrate other sporting events under orders from the state government.
The National Trust NSW on Monday told AAP the government order could be in breach of state heritage laws.
More than 200,000 people had signed a change.org petition against the advertisement on Monday evening.