Rumors flew over the weekend that an unidentified UK gambling company had offered Australian bookmaker Tom Waterhouse $500m to sell his business. In November, the 30-year-old Waterhouse reported that he’d received buyout offers from international operators, but the third-generation bookie said he had no intention of selling. In response to the latest rumors, a spokesman said only that the company receives “at least one call a week” inquiring if the business is for sale.
UK bookies Ladbrokes have since gone on record denying rumors that they’d offered $200m for a 50% stake in TomWaterhouse.com, with spokesman Ciaran O’Brien telling the Wall Street Journal that the company has “had no contact with Tom Waterhouse.” Just this week, Lads’ UK rivals William Hill completed their takeover of Sportingbet’s Australian betting operations and announced they’d received regulatory approval from the Northern Territories Commission. Most of Lad’s other UK rivals – including Bet365, Betfair and Paddy Power – are already operating in Australia, and Betfred is looking to join that club.
Waterhouse holds bookies’ licenses in Victoria and the Northern Territory, where most of Australia’s online betting operators are licensed. In January, Waterhouse made headlines by stealing the National Rugby League (NRL) gambling partnership from TAB Sportsbet in a deal reportedly worth $50m. More recently, Waterhouse has been in the news over his onscreen presence during rugby league broadcasts on Channel 9, in which he analyzes teams and offers comments during the matches.
These television appearances have anti-gambling types crying foul, saying they contravene new rules set out by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that bar commentators from promoting live odds during matches. However, Waterhouse appears to have found a comfortable grey area in that his appearances are clearly identified with his bookie business, which means he doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘commentator.’
On Tuesday, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy representative Simon Pelling told a Senate committee on gambling reform that Waterhouse’s appearances would be kosher so long as “he’s clearly got his Tom Waterhouse hat on.” The Australian Associated Press reported that Greens senator Richard Di Natale asked Pelling how a child could be expected to differentiate between a bookie and a commentator, to which Pelling replied that he was not “an expert in the sorts of ways children interact with television.” Representatives from the NRL will attempt to put a sharper definition on Waterhouse’s role at a Senate hearing scheduled for next week.