Off the Wall

Federal and State ministers responsible for gambling today agreed on a crackdown on the advertising and marketing on sports betting during broadcasts - but the governments won't even begin considering legislation until June 2012.

In the meantime, the "industry" will be encouraged to bring in voluntary measures that reduce 'live odds" promotion during match broadcasts.

If it proceeds to legislation marketing of live odds on mobile phone and then internet as well as television and radio broadcasts will be affected.

One has to wonder whether the AFL would have been able to negotiate a $1.1 rights agreement had today's statement by federal and state ministers been known a few weeks ago?

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that Foxtel was able to put up over $600 million for nine games live because it knew the sports betting agencies would pay a premium rate to advertise and market on live broadcasts.

Does this mean that when the NRL independent commission finally gets around to negotiating the post 2012 rights, our game will be at a significant disadvantage?

I fear so!

In any event, the question that needs to be asked is what real impact this decision - or threat of a decision - will have on the proliferation of sports betting?

Many will argue that it avoids the real issue - the number of exotic betting options (the word "exotic" is a steal from horse racing where the term covers trifectas, exactas, quinellas, qualdrellas etc) that are available on NRL, AFL and other football matches.

On Wednesday night's state of origin at least some operators were offering no less than 50 betting options.

The number of betting options has the real potential for corruption and fraud. The charges that have been laid so far relate to "exotic" betting options. And most of the allegations have related to exotic betting options as well.

That issue would seem to be in the too hard basket. But it won't go away.

Reducing the marketing and promotion of live betting, including by match broadcasters and panel members, will reduce some sports betting activity.

It will also mean less gambling marketing when young fans are watching.

But, for the next twelve to eighteen months it is "Hi Ho Silver!" for the sports betting agencies.

It also provides some breathing space for the broadcasters that are increasingly dependent on advertising revenue from them, and NRL clubs that are increasingly relying on sports betting agencies for sponsorships.

Speaking about the NRL commission, it appears there will be at least two former players on it.
Queensland's John Grant, who played for Souths Brisbane, and Queensland, in the 1970's, and is now Managing Director of the very successful Data 3 information technology company, would seem to be a certainty. He also represented Australia in the 1972 World Cup. He is likely to be the first commission chairman, and will bring vast corporate experience and integrity to the commission and the game.

Today Phil Rothfield reports in the Telegraph that Wayne Pearce, one of the most respected players in the games history, will be on the commission.

"Junior" Pearce represented Balmain, the Blues, and the Kangaroos with distinction. He is now a widely respected commentator, principally on Fox Sports.

He is an outstanding choice. I just hope that rugby league "politics" does not get in the way of his confirmation.

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