Australian independent bookmaker Tom Waterhouse is considering taking legal action against Fairfax Media after one of its newspapers referred to him as “the smiling face of this [sports betting] plague.” Waterhouse has been in the spotlight over the past week after the National Rugby League (NRL) bowed to pressure from a parliamentary committee and agreed to scale back Waterhouse’s odds-promoting presence during NRL broadcasts. Waterhouse has yet to comment on the suggestion that he might sue the Sun Herald newspaper over its ‘plague’ comment but a family spokesman told the Daily Telegraph that “the Waterhouses are the most litigation-conscious family there is.”
Prior to that Sun Herald editorial, Waterhouse’s horse-training mother Gai had defended her son’s promotional work, singling out Greens senator Richard Di Natale’s party as being capable of nothing but criticism designed “to kill every industry in Australia.” Di Natale has since responded by noting that he’d had a conversation with his own mother, who informed him she wouldn’t be riding to his rescue because “she thinks Tom and myself are big enough to fight our own battles.”
Di Natale said he hoped the bookmaking Waterhouse was also “big enough … to explain himself at my Gambling Inquiry” without being legally compelled to appear. Waterhouse had been invited to appear at last week’s hearing on the NRL betting brouhaha but declined due to prior commitments. The committee on which Di Natale sits is due to submit its final report on June 30.
As proof that the Greens aren’t singling out Waterhouse for special criticism, Di Natale has released a draft of a private bill the party plans to introduce that would ban any promotion of betting odds during sports broadcasts and sports-related programming on both radio and television. Australia’s parliament is due to resume sitting next month for a six-week period ahead of federal elections on September 14.
As further evidence of his equal opportunity approach to prohibition, Di Natale’s anti-betting vendetta (venbetta?) led him to pick a fight with computer giant Apple’s Australian branch over the weekend. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Di Natale claimed that the PokerStars mobile app available for download from the Australian iTunes store is in breach of the country’s Interactive Gambling Act (IGA). The IGA bars Australians from placing any kind of online wager that isn’t a pure sports bet, although enforcement of this edict is lax. There were hopes that the recent review of the IGA would have loosened restrictions to allow for online poker, but the federal government decided that no changes would be implemented, at least, not until uniform harm-reduction measures could be worked out with Australia’s individual states and territories. Apple has yet to issue any statement on the latest bee in Di Natale’s bonnet.