Sat, Jun 1, 9:20pm by Kevin Pitstock
Following news that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s proposal for the ban of live odds during sport broadcasts, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he expects the networks to self-regulate. Conroy proposed all free-to-air TV networks should voluntarily ban live odds during sporting events, before the government steps in.
While today’s announcement might be seen as heavy-handed by some industry insiders, Conroy’s statement serves as good advice to the industry. It’s now obvious the sports betting industry will face the full wrath of lawmakers if industry leaders don’t take forceful measures on their own. The key is now to do enough to satisfy the policy makers, while maintaining more freedom than lawmakers would allow with an alternative regulations.
FreeTV chief executive Julie Flynn appears to be taking the first step. She indicated to reporters FreeTV would do as Stephen Conroy asked and submit a new code for registration. This has not happened yet, but the government letter to FreeTV signalling the new policy stated the broadcaster has until June 10th to comply.
While the move by FreeTV is action on the part of broadcasters and not members of the online gambling industry, this reflects what a sober and responsible corporation does when faced with difficulties. Complying with the legal code doesn’t mean the industry cannot contribute its perspective to the ongoing debate. Again, inspiration might come from outside the industry.
Non-industry Australian newspapers are beginning to run commentary on their business and op-ed pages. The Australian media has weighted in on the political movement to ban ads. The following two might serve as examples of to people in the gaming industry, for each person introduced interesting talking points.
Michael Pascoe of the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that sports punting is by no means the biggest social ill in Australia. While studies show Aussies spend more money per capita on gaming expenses than any other nation on the planet, sports betting makes up only 2% of that revenue.
In fact, Mr Pascoe suggests one of the major reasons politicians, social critics, and public policy groups are so bold in their stance on the issue of live odds during NRL and AFL broadcasts is the fact sports betting isn’t the wealthiest niche in the gaming and gambling industry. While new laws and policies might protect children from sports betting advertisement, they’ll still know where to find the brick-and-mortar casinos or the online casinos when they turn 18.
The casino gambling industry, especially the pokies, are where the vast bulk of the money is lost.
Myriam Robin of the website Leading Company discussed whether the ban on live advertisements might hurt the NRL itself. While the league as a whole might be strong, certain clubs face hardships if they can’t draw on sports gambling revenue. Tickets and membership are a source of income, but both are an unreliable source, because crowds shrink when teams start losing. In these circumstances, sponsorships and advertising are two reliable ways to collect steady revenue.
The journalist for the LeadingCompany further discussed the result of the 1990’s ban on tobacco advertisements to the NRL. In that instant, no loss of revenue happened in a grander sense, so the ban did not hurt the league. New revenue sources were found, so so most clubs were unaffected by the banning of tobacco sponsorships. Of course, clubs might have been healthier then, the options for tapping new revenue streams might have been greater, or the cost of doing business might have been more reasonable.
No one knows for certain how a live odds ban might affect the industry of sport. What is certain is networks and gambling interests have gone a bit too far since the laws were liberalized in 2008. Now they pay the price for their lack of restraint. How great that price might turn out to be is still in doubt.
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