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His business was gambling and he died a wealthy man

How many times have you visited or walked past a Tattersalls club?

Gambling and sweeps are an entrenched part of Australian culture and the Tattersalls sweeps were established by an Englishman named George Adams. He came to Australia as a teenager with his parents and siblings. He had been born in Hertfordshire, England in 1839 and when he was 15 years old, his farm labouring father and mother moved the family to the colonies for a better life.

George Adams Photo: Pinterest

George tried a number of different occupations including gold mining, a sheep station hand, a stock dealer and even a butcher. It was while he was a butcher he purchased the licence to the Steam Packet Hotel in Kiama and swapped selling meat for selling liquor.

George was a networker with a keen business acumen and one outing he loved was attending the Sydney race meetings and Royal Show on a regular basis. The bearded man with the broad chest had plenty of friends and at one point three of them, George Hill, Bill Archer and George Loseby, bought O'Brien's Hotel in Pitt St, Sydney. They told George to 'pay when he can', saying they had bought the pub for him because 'George Adams liked O'Brien's and they liked George Adams'.

Within six years George had paid his friends back and also purchased the freehold. He had become a very wealthy man with business interests in mining and infrastructure. The tin bar in O'Brien's had been converted into a marble bar at the cost of 32,000 pounds. (In 1973 that marble bar was painstakingly dismantled, transported and reassembled in the Hilton Hotel on George Street).

The Marble Bar Photo:

His wealth had come from his Tattersalls group which started in 1881 when he ran his first public sweep on the Sydney Cup. George structured his Tattersalls company so the original workers' families would inherit the profits. This created the so-called "Tattersall's heirs" where subsequent generations inherited a share in the company's profits. In 2005 the company decided to list on the Australian Stock Exchange and the "Tattersall's heirs" were now allowed to sell their stake in the company and for the first time the public could buy into it. After the listing on the stock exchange local newspapers and other news media listed the names of these "Heirs".

Tattersalls' staff drawing sweeps, circa 1901. George Adams in centre of group. Photograph courtesy John Shepherd

Opposition to George's business meant he had to take it from state to state, until he ended up in Tasmania where he spent the rest of his life. He had a home for Tattersall's lotteries for the next fifty-eight years. He contributed around 45,000 pounds yearly to the Tasmanian treasury and was the state's largest ratepayer.

George was married twice but had no children, so the bulk of his estate went to his nephew William James Adams. He died in 1904 and is buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery under a grand headstone that included a statue of himself.



* 'George Adams - businessman', Wikipedia,, accessed 27th February, 2020

* 'Marble Bar', Hilton Hotel Sydney,, accessed 27th February, 2020

* Decie Denholm, 'Adams, George (1839–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 27 February 2020.

* 'Tatts Group', Wikipedia,, accessed on 27th February, 2020.

* 'George Adams', The Tumut and Adelong Times, Friday, 30 April, 1904, Page 4

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