Off the Wall

You get the impression the betting "scandal" currently being investigated by the NSW Police is going to end revealing a lot more than just what happened when a large number of bets were placed on one obscure, minor option in a premiership match in Townsville.

It does seem that police are looking beyond one match, or one betting option in that match.

That is the real worry about this whole issue - is it a one off, or just the tip of a large iceberg.

I fear it is the latter and that what might emerge is that this particular scam would not have been detected had not some of those involved been so greedy - they put too much on one option which resulted in the betting shops becoming suspicious.

The simple fact is that the administrators of our game do not have in place any processes to detect scams.

They rely on the betting agencies to tip them off - and then they have to call in the Chief Steward of Racing NSW to investigate it when they are tipped off.

That is just not good enough. Sports betting is now the fastest growing form of betting in Australia, and betting on NRL matches seems to be more popular than on the AFL etc.

It is a massive growth area for the betting agencies, which includes the TAB, and it has become an important revenue source for clubs, and for the television and radio broadcast rights holders, and newspapers.

It has also become the target of the anti-gambling lobby.

And what an easy target it is. The controls over who can bet on line are limited - and betting during actual matches is rife, and now encouraged by commentators who read paid advertisements during the broadcast, and provide odds updates. You cannot get much more encouragement than that.

The anti-poker machine lobby has become the anti-gambling lobby...and sports betting is now a major target.

If rugby league administrators, including club administrators, want to continue to benefit from sports betting sponsorship, franchise agreements and advertising they have to get their act together, and get it together fast.

The defence is already being trotted out that it is not an offence for player managers and officials to bet on NRL matches. It is not a criminal offence for players to do so.

But when a "conspiracy" is involved then it is wholly a different matter. And clearly that is what the police investigations at the Bulldogs and Cowboys is focussed on.

Last week it was revealed that criminal gangs had been indentified as plunging comparatively huge amounts on a recent Danny Green title fight.

No one is suggesting, so far, that criminal gangs are involved in betting on the NRL.

But whatever the outcome of the current investigation, the status quo cannot continue.

The soon to be established Independent Commission to run the game needs to get serious about monitoring betting on all NRL/ARL matches.

Monitoring won't come cheap - but if the game wants to be associated, and benefit from, sports betting it is an expense that cannot be avoided.