Thu, May 23, 6:04pm by Kevin Pitstock
Sportingbet Chief Executive Michael Sullivan said in a newspaper interview Tom Waterhouse is “acting irresponsibly” and suggested he is ruining the gambling industry in Australia. Sullivan also supported a total ban on the spruiking of live odds during sports broadcasts, a suggestion which carries weight, since Sportingbet is the biggest online bookmaker operating in Australia.
Michael Sullivan’s remarks were published in an exclusive interview with the Brisbane Times on May 23. In the interview, Sullivan complained that Tom Waterhouse’s actions were affecting the industry as a whole, including his leading competitors. Mr Sullivan said, “What he’s doing now is affecting all our businesses.”
The Sportingbet CEO went on to say he watched rugby league more than anyone, but “…it makes me sick in the guts when he (Waterhouse) comes on TV. The frequency of his appearances is what’s also driving people mad and Channel Nine has a lot to answer for.”
The Sportingbet executive was careful to note that a complete ban on sports advertisements would be too much, but he was receptive to the type of bans being proposed at the moment. “Prohibition of advertising full-stop is going too far, but there’s some middle ground. If it means banning live odds on TV to sort this out then that’s what should happen. I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”
These comments were in line with previous statements by Tabcorp, the only other betting organization besides Tom Waterhouse which promotes live odds during sports broadcasts. Tabcorp said in a press release it “supports the introduction of further controls on sports betting advertising, but it they’re to be effective they need to be nationally applied and enforced.”
Tom Waterhouse had been in negotiations with 9 Network on extending their business relationship, but these appear to have broken down. The new deal would have made the online bookmaker an official sponsor, though other gambling interests, such as Tabcorp, have been mentioned as potential partners of 9 Network.
Other industry personalities wonder at the value of such an advertising deal. TattBet’s Gerard Daffy questioned whether the deal was worth the money for any potential sponsor. “What were you actually getting in return apart from the title of official sponsor,” asked Mr Daffy. Further commenting on the industry, Gerard Daffy suggested the brand name punting businesses wouldn’t be hurt much by proposed harsher laws, but start-up bookmakers might find it harder to establish a presence.
While it’s easy to take with a grain of salt the public comments made by business executives about their competitor, this would appear to be the consensus of the Australian gambling industry at the moment.
In a time when public sentiment appears to be turning against gaming interests due to continued issues related to problem gambling, having ads which some believe are meant to target underage NRL viewers is bad form. Anyone bringing bad publicity to online gambling in general or bookmaking in particular is likely to be seen as irresponsible and short-sighted by others in the industry.
In many ways, the announcement earlier this week that Tom Waterhouse won’t be called to give testimony before a government gambling reform committee only fuels the unrest. These quotes from rival punting services could be seen as venting frustrations, or an attempt to support a less punitive plan in hopes of avoiding a much harsher set of new laws.
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