Gavin Harper
by Gavin Harper
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Gavin Harper
by Gavin Harper
Kerry Packer Australia high roller

Kerry Packer is Australia’s most famous high roller and a legendary figure in Australia's history. He is known for his high-stakes gambling and the significant changes he made in media and sports. As a bold media tycoon and daring gambler, Packer's life is a mix of savvy business moves, innovative ideas, and brave risks that shaped his time. From unexpectedly taking over the family business to revolutionizing cricket and sports broadcasting, Packer's story is fascinating. His incredible wins and immense generosity at the casino tables add to his larger-than-life reputation. This article explores Kerry Packer's extraordinary journey, his early challenges, groundbreaking achievements, and the lasting legacy he left behind.

Early Life and Media Rise of Kerry Packer

Kerry's journey into the world of media could have been smoother. Labeled the 'boofhead' son, he was not the first choice to take over the family business. His elder brother, Clyde, was initially groomed for the role, but Kerry was given the responsibility after a fallout with their father. In 1956, Kerry joined Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) and took over the family's media conglomerate, Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL), in 1974 following his father's death. He quickly proved his mettle, transforming the business landscape with his visionary approach, including the lucrative buyback of the Nine Network from Alan Bond, which significantly bolstered his empire.

Kerry Packer's Transformation of Cricket and Sports Broadcasting

Kerry Packer's influence extended beyond the media industry into sports, where he made a lasting impact. His passion for cricket led to the creation of World Series Cricket in 1977, a revolutionary move that challenged traditional cricket authorities. This initiative introduced one-day internationals with colored clothing and night games, transforming the game's format and greatly enhancing its television appeal. By securing exclusive broadcasting rights, Packer significantly increased cricket's global popularity. His innovative vision also extended to sports broadcasting, benefiting rugby league, golf, and horse racing, ensuring these sports thrived.

Kerry Packer was not only a media and casino legend but also deeply passionate about horse racing, especially the major Australian events. His favorite event was the Melbourne Cup, a race bookies dreaded each year due to the chaos his bets could cause. A phone call starting with "Packer here..." could send shivers down the spine of any bookmaker. In 1997, Kerry Packer placed a hefty bet of almost $1.5 million on Might And Power to win the Melbourne Cup. The horse clinched victory, and it was estimated that Packer won $5 million.  Packer's luck continued the following year when he placed a quinella bet on Jezabeel and Champagne, with Jezabeel winning at $7. This move significantly slashed the odds and left the betting rings in both Melbourne and Sydney in disarray. The financial blow to the bookies was even worse than the previous year.

Kerry Packer's High-Stakes Gambling Exploits

Packer's reputation as a gambler is legendary. Known for his high-stakes gambling, he could win or lose millions in a single night. His most famous gambling exploits include winning $20 million in 40 minutes at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and placing massive bets on horse races. Despite the enormous risks, Packer's gambling habits showcased his fearless nature and his love for living life on the edge. His generosity was equally legendary. He often tipped casino staff extravagant amounts and helped those in need with his winnings​.

While Phil Ivey once generously offered a $5,000 tip to a masseuse on behalf of a temporarily cash-strapped Nick Schulman, such acts of kindness seem modest compared to the legendary tales of Kerry Packer. Known for his extraordinary generosity, Packer once handed out a $1 million tip to blackjack dealers at the MGM Grand.

This memorable event occurred during Packer's 1997 visit to the MGM Grand, where he astonishingly won $20 million by playing eight hands of blackjack simultaneously, each with a $250,000 bet. His magnanimity didn't stop there; he was known to pay off six-figure mortgages for dealers and staff who provided excellent service. In one notable incident, he even asked for a dealer to be fired solely so she could accept his $80,000 tip and then ensured she was rehired immediately afterward​.

Kerry Packer's Generosity and Humanitarian Efforts

Packer's generosity extended beyond the casino floors. After surviving a heart attack that left him clinically dead for seven minutes, he donated $2.5 million to equip New South Wales ambulances with defibrillators, ensuring better emergency services for the public. His philanthropic efforts also included significant donations to healthcare and other social causes, reflecting his deep sense of responsibility towards society.

Legacy and Impact of Kerry Packer on Australian Gambling

Kerry Packer passed away on December 26, 2005, leaving behind a complex legacy characterized by bold business moves, transformative influence in sports, and a remarkable gambling career. His legendary gambling strongly influenced both land-based and Australian online casinos. His death marked the end of an era, but his impact continues to be felt. His son, James Packer, inherited the family business, continuing the Packer legacy in media and gambling. The establishment of Crown Sydney, a casino envisioned by James, is a testament to Kerry Packer's enduring influence in the gambling world.

Final Thoughts on Kerry Packer's Legacy

Kerry Packer's life is a tale of overcoming odds, seizing opportunities, and leaving a lasting legacy. From reshaping Australian media and sports to becoming a legendary figure in gambling, Packer's story is one of ambition, resilience, and unparalleled influence. His contributions have shaped industries and inspired many to dream big and take bold steps toward their goals.

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