Much has been made lately about banning the promotion of live odds for sports betting. It’s a topic that has simmered along for quite some time, but has recently gained momentum since everywhere-man Tom Waterhouse bullocked his way into practically every corner of the media. His grinning face has proven to the catalyst for an unprecedented reaction from the viewing public, and it seems that reaction has not gone unnoticed.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has released a draft bill that would “ban the broadcast of betting odds during sports and sports-related programming”. The Greens bill proposes a blanket ban on anything to do with live odds, but says nothing about other gambling advertising.
More recently, FreeTV Australia (the body that represents all commercial free-to-air networks) released its own proposed amendments to its Code of Practice, also with the stated intention of banning the promotion of live odds during sports broadcasts.
And it’s all a waste of time.
It’s all a sham, a con. These proposals are a complete waste of time; at best they’ll slow the creep of gambling advertising into Australian sport, at worst they’ll see an explosion of on-screen bookmakers flogging their wares on our screens.
Bookies on the TV – here to stay
Take Senator Di Natale’s proposed bill. If this became law, then the promotion of live odds would be banned during sports broadcasts. That’s the best-case scenario.
updated 27/5/13: The final version of the Greens bill was a much stronger proposal, which included banning gambling ads before 9pm. You can read my assessment of it here.
But Tom Waterhouse, Glenn Munsie and the rest of the online bookie brigade would still be free to pop up on air, chat with the commentators, say who they think is a “good thing” (without actually mentioning live odds) and provide links back to their websites. The ad breaks would still be saturated with gambling ads. As “best-case scenarios” go, this one isn’t great… but it’s miles better than the alternative.
That alternative is FreeTV’s proposed amendment to its Code of Practice. This is beyond a joke. It’s a detailed fraud designed to perpetuate the practice of getting bookmakers on-air to provide specialised promotion for their business.
Under FreeTV’s proposal, commentators would be banned from discussing live odds during play, during breaks, 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the game. All banned. Sounds good? It’s not.
FreeTV takes great care to provide a definition for what being a commentator includes, and doesn’t include. And one of the things it DOESN’T include is:
It does not include discrete and distinguishable contributors, including clearly identified representatives of gambling organisations.
In other words, if Tom Waterhouse is identified as a bookie (which he is now, thanks to the furore over his NRL appearances) then he is still allowed to promote live odds… before the game, during the main breaks and after the game has finished.
Exactly like he does now.
It gets worse. If commentators are banned from promoting live odds, but bookmakers are given essentially free rein, then it’s a safe bet (heh) that all sporting broadcasts will soon feature guest bookmakers, providing their expertise and pushing their odds. They’ll be the only ones allowed to!
And, as with Senator Di Natale’s bill, all other forms of gambling advertising would continue unchecked.
Some may call this progress; it’s not. It’s a smokescreen, and will achieve nothing. Australia’s bookmakers will be wetting themselves laughing over this.
We deserve better.