Sat, May 11, 6:39am by Kevin Pitstock
Tom Waterhouse has been formally requested to provide testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform. Waterhouse declined an invitation to speak before the committee in March and instead sent a letter defending his actions in the NRL broadcasts on Nine Network earlier this year.
While the Joint Select Committee has the power to compel testimony, its latest move is still just a formal request. MP Andrew Wilkie, chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, said the controversial bookmaker he’s can request a private hearing, if he’s concerned about giving out commercially sensitive testimony.
Mr Wilkie stated Waterhouse declined the invitation to meet with the committee “due to spring racing carnival commitments”. Instead, he sent a short written submission stating his early appearances on the NRL broadcasts, which blurred the lines between advertisement and sports broadcasting, were not an intentional attempt to target underage viewers.
Commenting on the formal request, Andrew Wilkie said, “The committee anticipates Mr Waterhouse will appear and provide more information than he already has, and be able to respond to questions in a more practical and efficient way than the exchange of written correspondence might achieve.” The committee agreed to postpone the release of its report on advertising and the promotion of gambling until they hear testimony from Waterhouse.
Though it is not compelling Mr Waterhouse at the moment, the parliamentary committee does hold the power to compel testimony. This latest request is a clear sign the inquiry has no intention of releasing its report without live testimony, so it’s best for Waterhouse to attend while he still is being given the option to set parameters to that appearance.
The inquiry stems from appearances the 30 year old bookmaker made on Nine Network broadcasts of the NRL earlier this year. In the first two rounds of NRL, Tom Waterhouse interacted with broadcasters more like he was a commentator, with no mention of his status as a paid advertiser. After receiving complaints, the bookmaker’s appearances during the game were to ensure, according to NRL executive Shane Mattiske, “a clear distinction between the commentary team and the promotion of sports betting.” Mattiske admitted the lines were blurred in the early broadcasts.
Since 2010, Tom Waterhouse has been the public face of the bookmaker website which bears his name. He is part-owner of the site, along his father, Robbie, and his sister, Louise. The scandal over his television appearances are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’ve brought a great deal more attention to the Waterhouse online bookmaker business than simple advertisements would have.
On the other hand, the controversy has played into the hands of anti-gambling forces in the country, which could lead to tighter gaming restrictions. In a time when the gambling industry is viewed with hostility by many in the public, including several prominent politicians, concerns that advertisements could be targeting young sports viewers give cause for greater outrage and hostility. Tom Waterhouse must defend against charges he crossed the line before this phase of the scandal ends.
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