28/05/2013 - 07:09

Live odds blur lines on sport

28/05/2013 - 07:09


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Live odds blur lines on sport

Julia Gillard is right to crack down on the advertising of gambling odds during sporting contests, but the prime minister's political opportunism masks her failure to have a policy on gambling that really stacks up.

Gambling is a state issue, as are mining, health, education and a whole bunch of things that Canberra can't help sticking its nose into. However betting and gaming has shifted to the national stage due to the arrival of online platforms and national sporting codes such as the AFL.

And advertising on TV is a federal issue because Canberra governs the airwaves – until the NBN makes all that a bit redundant.

So Ms Gillard may be justified in entering the debate on football gambling, which many view as an insidious development that risks bringing corrupt practices to football as it appears to have done in cricket via the betting industry in India.

But where is the strategy behind last weekend's knee-jerk reaction?

Federal Labor, under Ms Gillard, has proved it is weak at the knees when it comes to gambling. Having struck a deal with Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie to rein-in poker machines, it then ran a mile when the industry campaigned against the changes.

Mr Wilkie's policy had some science behind it, and from a Western Australian perspective was a good thing. This state has, rightly in my view, ring-fenced pokies to the Burswood casino, but that policy comes at great financial cost, especially in terms of the burden of receiving a smaller share of the GST.

So anything that reduces pokie revenue in other states is not just good for the social wellbeing of their populations; it also helps rebalance the books in terms of GST.

Advertising live odds during footy is, in my view, outrageous. Television broadcasters already push the advertising code to its limits in terms of how much promotion of goods and services takes place outside actual ad breaks, but gambling is the worst of it.

The code is there because existing regulation protects broadcasters from competition. It is a trade-off.

I realise that some people like a bet and I admit I am not one of them. Perhaps I just don't get any pleasure in deceiving myself that I can beat the bookies or anyone else setting the odds.
Apart from the odd lottery ticket as a gift, and knowing that the money mainly goes to charity, I steer clear; but that is my choice.

I think gambling is a choice issue, and quite frankly I don't have a problem with it being advertised during appropriate breaks in sporting contests. It is up to parents to educate kids about the dangers, and up to service providers to ensure they are not selling to children.

But as the codes governing broadcasting clearly state, confusing advertising with live commentary is wrong, whether it is on the subject of gambling, the hair restorer used by Shane Warne, or the name of the tattoo artist that inscribed Buddy Franklin's arm.


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