Off the Wall

My campaign for rugby league to get the dividend it deserves from the upsurge in sports betting received a major boost last week - thanks to the dogged determination of Racing NSW.

The issue of the fees corporate bookmakers pay to racing has been before the Federal Court for some time. Last week the court came down in favour of Racing NSW - by allowing corporate bookmakers to be charged a turnover-based fee.

Rugby league gets a poor return from betting on NRL premiership and other matches - around $1.5 million a year - on a profit based formula.

The decision favouring Racing NSW certainly opens the way for the new independent commission to negotiate, and if need be insist on, a turnover based fee.

And rugby league stands to gain more than any other sport - betting on rugby league is the second highest of any sport after horse racing.

While betting on the horses is stagnant, it is booming on rugby league in particular.

The $1.5 million product fee is totally inadequate. Racing in NSW stands to gain something like $60 million a year from a turnover based fee.  On that basis rugby league should be in line for $15 million a year or more.

The debate about whether or not betting on rugby league is healthy can go on - but it is a reality the consequences of which need to be confronted.

We continue to wait for the outcome of the police inquiry into betting on the Bulldogs-Dragons game late in the season.

And whatever the outcome a better way of investigating alleged rorts, and betting by players, must be found.

That is a challenge for the independent commission - which may get a further kick along at the ARL board meeting today - which also needs to urgently look at the existing agreements with corporate bookmakers and try and negotiate turnover based fees without delay.

There will be a conga line of state racing authorities and sporting administrators seeking the same deal.

Our game needs to be at the head of the queue!

And it needs an independent commission to run it even more urgently than ever.