Len Ainsworth’s playing philanthropy evokes critiques of donation recipients

The Ainsworth household title adorns artwork galleries, universities and hospitals throughout Sydney.

There may be an Ainsworth wing on the Sydney Youngsters’s Hospital. An Ainsworth Household Gallery at Sydney Fashionable, the brand new arm of the Artwork Gallery of NSW, the place the Ainsworths’ have helped fund, part-fund or given virtually 100 works, together with these by celebrated artists resembling Russell Drysdale, John Black, Simryn Gill and David Hockney.

There may be an Ainsworth Constructing at UNSW, and one other on the Western Sydney College. In the meantime, Sydney College has The Ainsworth Interactive Assortment of Medical Pathology that contains 1600 preserved medical specimens, together with a coronary heart courting to 1895, a lung contaminated by the 1918 Spanish flu, and an 1888 flask of broth made and sealed by Louis Pasteur. Sydney College additionally has an Ainsworth Chair of Expertise and Innovation, arrange on the request of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, with funding it obtained from the Ainsworths.

Close to the Prince of Wales’ hospital precinct there’s a Margarete Ainsworth Constructing, after the household’s cash helped construct the unbiased Neuroscience Analysis Australia centre.


The Ainsworths are one of many 20 wealthiest households in Australia, with an estimated fortune of some $5.7 billion, in response to The Australian Monetary Overview Wealthy Listing.

Their patriarch, Len Ainsworth, turns 100 in July. He, his now ex-second spouse Margarete, and a few of his seven sons, have a formidable document of generosity throughout the town, having given at the least $60 million away. In return, their title has been hooked up to outstanding establishments as an everlasting image of feat, the place future generations will keep in mind the household’s philanthropic legacy.

The origins of the Ainsworth’s cash, which got here from poker machine manufacturing, could also be forgotten over time. However not if some critics can assist it. They’re questioning the rules and ethics of the training, well being and humanities establishments, and whether or not they need to be accepting the household’s philanthropy in any respect.

“The difficulty right here is that Mr Ainsworth’s fortune comes from playing, and exactly the manufacture of playing machines, that are clearly and unequivocally essentially the most dangerous type of playing on this nation,” says Charles Livingstone, head of Monash College’s Playing and Social Determinants Unit. “Whether or not it comes immediately from Mr Ainsworth, or his kids, is irrelevant. The cash got here from the proceeds of harming a major variety of folks, amongst them, a few of the most susceptible within the nation.”

It’s a view shared, not surprisingly, by one of many nation’s staunchest playing reform campaigners, Tim Costello, who additionally chairs the Neighborhood Council for Australia, a peak physique for the charity sector. He says such organisations shouldn’t be taking cash that has been derived from an business that has brought about social injury and distress. “There are moral questions. None of these establishments would take it if the cash had come from the manufacturing of tobacco or weapons.”

‘Most charitable organisations, after they meet me, are grateful for help to attain their great, altruistic goals.’

Len Ainsworth, founding father of Aristocrat and Ainsworth Gaming Applied sciences

Len Ainsworth is the daddy of the poker machine manufacturing business in Australia. The business has generated billions of {dollars} in income and, some argue, created lots of of hundreds of playing addicts.

A research, printed final month within the Journal of Behaviour Addictions, of 71,103 playing instances in Australia, concluded that poker machines have been accountable for 51-57 per cent of playing dependancy within the nation, which have resulted in societal issues such because the indebtedness, crime, drug use, household breakdowns, home violence, homelessness and suicides.

The research’s authors wrote: “Digital Gaming Machines (poker machines) are accountable for almost all of playing issues within the nation. Regardless, calls to scale back availability, prohibit their extra addictive structural options, or implement different options which may interrupt extreme spending, all seem to have been ignored. Digital Gaming Machine regulation needs to be the primary precedence for decreasing playing hurt in Australia.”

Poker machine playing dependancy has additionally change into a marketing campaign concern within the forthcoming NSW election, with Premier Dominic Perrottet committing to introducing a cashless gaming card for all of the state’s poker machines by 2028. The Opposition has dedicated to a trial.

The NSW Crime Fee referred to as for reform final 12 months, together with a cashless gaming card, after claiming that $95 billion in money flows by way of poker machines in pubs and golf equipment in NSW every year, making it the playing capital of Australia. These money flows additionally included laundered cash from prison gangs.

Len Ainsworth created two poker machine producers, Aristocrat and Ainsworth Gaming Applied sciences, which have been vastly profitable right here and globally. They’ve generated virtually unimaginable wealth, a lot in order that Ainsworth is considered one of 5 Australians who’ve joined the Invoice Gates-inspired Giving Pledge, to offer away half his fortune. Requested how most of that fortune can be given away after he dies, Ainsworth advised The Sydney Morning Herald: “Ask me after I’m 105.”

Ainsworth funding has helped protect the Ainsworth Interactive Assortment of Medical Pathology that contains 1600 preserved medical specimens.

Even so, Ainsworth says his intention has been to make “a constructive and lasting contribution to medical analysis and training”. He says the establishments he and his household have given to have taken “a really completely different educated and regarded view” from his critics. “Most charitable organisations after they meet me are grateful for help to attain their great, altruistic goals.”

Sydney College, which has obtained hundreds of thousands from Ainsworth, has a Playing Analysis and Remedy Clinic that has helped greater than 550 drawback gamblers, by way of its Mind and Thoughts Centre. The college says it has strict pointers round its reward coverage and procedures.

The UNSW gives a playing and restoration help course and has executed analysis into drawback playing. It obtained a donation of $10 million from Len Ainsworth to assist assemble a brand new constructing in its engineering and manufacturing college, now often known as the Ainsworth Constructing. UNSW says it accepts philanthropic items in good religion, with the intention the donation may have a constructive affect.

Western Sydney College obtained a $10 million donation for its constructing works from Ainsworth. Final month, the college’s suppose tank, the Centre for Western Sydney, launched an points paper declaring that playing is Western Sydney’s silent epidemic. It famous that there was one poker machine for each 105 folks in Western Sydney, in contrast with one in 113 folks for the remainder of Sydney.

Western Sydney College stated in a press release the reward from Len Ainsworth was in alignment with its pointers for donations and fundraising, and with its mission, objectives and insurance policies.

The Ainsworth Building at the UNSW in the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering precinct.

The Ainsworth Constructing on the UNSW within the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering precinct.

St Vincent’s Non-public Hospital Sydney, which additionally referred to its rigorous philanthropic pointers, obtained a $5 million donation from Ainsworth to contribute to its constructing works. The general public arm of St Vincent’s runs a statewide, government-funded Playing Remedy Program.

“Should you’re a charity or organisation that’s working with drawback gamblers, and try to assist individuals who have gotten playing dependancy issues, or simply want welfare, taking cash from the supply of the issue, or a part of the supply of the issue, is counterproductive,” says John McLeod, a senior analysis advisor at JBWere’s Philanthropic Providers and Household Advisory.

Len Ainsworth’s oldest son, Geoff, has a basis often known as Oranges & Sardines, and says it’s clear with its recipients about its unique supply of earnings. Geoff, who declined to be interviewed, has not been concerned or held shares in Aristocrat for the reason that mid-90s.

It’s as much as the establishments to simply accept or decline donations from philanthropists and do the due diligence, says McLeod. He gives this recommendation to shoppers. “Once we’re advising for-purpose organisations about accepting donations, the fundamental factor we ask them to consider is by accepting that cash, what are the implications for you in accepting it, and does that improve or detract out of your trigger?”

Simon Longstaff, govt director of The Ethics Centre, says there’s an moral concern in accepting cash that has been derived from the playing business. Nonetheless, he says it’s not a easy one, significantly if the person, resembling Len Ainsworth, has had a protracted relationship with sure charitable organisations, and hasn’t simply determined to varnish how he made his fortune with a veneer of do-goodery.


“It’s attainable that Mr Ainsworth has been doing this quietly for years and years and years, and there’s a complete community of relationships, that are based mostly on private interplay, and that he’s developed a very honest affinity for the causes that he helps,” says Longstaff. “So, it’s not about attempting to clean his palms of any criticism.”

Even so, Len Ainsworth and his household now discover themselves giving again in a world the place there’s rising criticism that such philanthropy won’t ever match what poker machines have taken.

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