Thu, Feb 14, 1:20pm by Ed Scimia
When the Australian Crime Commission announced last week that it has evidence of the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in major Australian sports, both the overall picture and the dirty details were shocking to many sports fans. Even for those who have long since shed the naive view that any sport around the world can be completely untouched by PED usage, the fact that coaches, scientists, and even organized criminal groups may be involved in the distribution of such drugs came as a surprise.
While this is a story of interest to many, you may not have realized that these revelations could also have an effect on the world of online gambling in Australia. Some of the connections are obvious and immediate, while some may come into focus only later on down the road – but it’s clear that this story will have repercussions for all aspects of sport, including sports betting. Here’s a look at a couple of the ways in which the so-called “darkest day” for Australian sport could impact your online betting.
Never one to shy away from the topic of gambling, Senator Nick Xenophon quickly responded to the report of the Crime Commission investigation by calling for a temporary ban on all sports betting. The proposed ban would last until the government was assured that measures had been taken to ensure all games were clean and free of any match-fixing scandals.
“The revelations contained in the ACC report are so grave, are so serious, that a number of measures must be implemented to ensure the integrity of our sporting codes,” Senator Xenophon said.
Now, while that might seem like an extreme response, and it’s unlikely that such a ban would even be put into law, it’s worth noting that Xenophon was far from alone in his opinion. For instance, former VFA footballer and current Greens senator Richard Di Natale was also in favor of such a move. Others have argued that banning sports betting at this point would just push gambling underground, giving punters even less protection.
Even online sportsbooks agreed that it was important to continue looking for ways to improve security and regulation for sports betting. TAB Sportbet even went so far as to suspend betting on the Adelaide-Essendon game, as did Sportbet.com.au. While that was far from a long-term ban on betting, it showed that the sports betting industry understands the seriousness of the ACC’s findings. That said, industry spokespersons have said that Australia already has some of the world’s most sophisticated regulations, and that efforts are ongoing to make those protections even stronger.
One obvious way in which sporting codes might react to controversy is to shy away from the sports betting industry. It wouldn’t be shocking to see some leagues or clubs try to cut back on sponsorships by gambling companies, for instance, especially if those clubs in particular turn out to be targets of match-fixing inquiries.
While that hasn’t happened yet, some sports are looking for ways to lower the exposure gambling gets during their contests. For instance, Cricket Australia has said it will consider prohibiting the airing of betting liens and promotions during broadcasts of games. This was an especially noteworthy move considering that – at least so far – the ACC report did not mention cricket. While Cricket Australia currently allows Channel Nine to allow betting segments during matches, they do not allow odds to be shown during play.
That prohibition will almost certainly stay in effect for the near future. However, it’s quite possible that in negotiations for the next five-year television deal for Cricket Australia the terms of what is allowed could be tightened even further, perhaps even preventing broadcasters from promoting their own betting industry partners during matches. The downside for Cricket Australia is that the value of any such deal would be much lower if no gambling promotion at all were allowed. One possible move could be to only allow certain kind of betting to be promoted while pulling back on more controversial practices such as single ball betting.
But in many ways, all of the above represents something of a waiting game for the sports betting industry. Everyone is most interested in seeing what will come when the federal government releases their final review of Australia’s online gambling laws, a review that could contain any mix of tightening or loosening regulations on various kinds of gambling.
And that’s not the only government report that many are waiting on. Since the ACC report, the federal government has passed a motion to conduct an inquiry into the impact of promotion and advertising of sports gambling in order to get a better idea of how sponsorship deals and the display of betting odds during games impacts the integrity of sports (and whether it’s appropriate to allow such advertisements in venues where children are a large portion of the audience).
The results of these inquiries and studies could have a major impact on the future of online gambling in Australia. Prior to last week’ ACC report, it was believed that the government might recommend trials that would allow licensed gambling outlets in Australia to offer online poker, and perhaps other casino games as well. Whether or not that would be affected by the current controversy is unclear. On the other hand, while it was once believed that restrictions on “in-play” betting might be relaxed, that seems much less likely in today’s climate.
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