Off the Wall

If anyone had doubts the alleged betting scam on the Bulldogs v Cowboys game last season was "serious business" for our game, then yesterday's events must surely have dispelled them.

A first grade player has been charged with a criminal offence, and the home and car of a prominent player manager, and the homes of a number of other people, were raided by NSW Police.

All have previously been identified by the media as being under investigation.

It concerns me, as it has done from the outset, that the NRL, and more particularly the clubs involved, are just not giving this incident, and its wider implications for the game, the priority it surely demands.

I lost count how many times I read, and was told, that there was "nothing to" the massive betting plunge on one option in the game.

We now know that the NRL did not discover the alleged scam. It was told about it, a day or so before the game, by one of the major sports betting operators.

None of our major sporting bodies - including the NRL - has anywhere near the level of monitoring of betting on events that is necessary given that sports betting is the fastest growing form of betting today.

When the alleged scam was revealed, the NRL had to call in the Chief Steward of NSW Racing to investigate it. They could not have chosen anyone better...and he clearly did a thorough job, the results of which are in the hands of the police.

I believe the whole issue is escalating in its seriousness because not only has there been an explosion in betting on rugby league, the dependence of the game on sponsorship and other arrangements with sports betting operators has escalated in the off-season.

Penrith Park will carry the name of a betting agency, and several other clubs have signed up sponsorship with gambling companies, including the Rabbitohs, who once wanted to ban poker machines in their licensed club!

The other significant event in the off season was a court decision in favour of the NSW Racing Industry which allows the industry to tax betting operators more in line with the taxes paid by the TAB operators.

Racing, like rugby league, has been extracting a pittance in real terms from sports betting agencies who operate on race meetings.

Rugby league, in conjunction with other sports needs to get a fair return if betting on our "product" is to continue. That is something the NRL Commission, if we ever get it, needs to address.

But there is a more immediate need.

The 2011 premiership is just week away - the unofficial start is days away.

Before the season proper starts the NRL must have in place a process that enables betting trends to be examined on a match-by-match basis.

That means it must have full time, trained staff who can detect potential rorts and report to David Gallop on unusual betting trends and activity.

And if they need advice on the skill set etc needed for the staff, then they need do no more than ask Ray Murrihy - he has, as do his counterparts in other states, full time and highly skilled staff whose job is to monitor betting trends on horse races across the nation.

We need something very similar, and we need it now.

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