A parliamentary joint select committee in Australia has issued a formal request to Australian bookmaker Tom Waterhouse to front a federal parliamentary inquiry into gambling promotions in sport.
Waterhouse, who came under fire a few months ago for his appearance on an NRL broadcast, has been formally asked to attend discussions regarding amendments that should be made involving the advertising and promotion of gambling in sports. The committee initially planed to release its report on the subject but has since delayed its deployment to organize a hearing that Waterhouse can attend. This isn’t the first time the committee has issued an invitation request to Waterhouse but due to scheduling conflicts, the bookmaker declined the invitation the first time around.
“The committee has previously invited Mr Waterhouse to give evidence but on this occasion the committee has issued a formal request,” committee member Andrew Wilkie told the Australian.
“In the response to the original invitation he explained that he was unavailable due to spring racing carnival commitments and provided a short written submission. 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 request by the committee comes after Waterhouse’s appearance during an NRL broadcast, where he updated betting odds and gave betting tips, drawing public outcry because his presence during the game “blurred the line between commentator and pitchman”. It must be noted that earlier this year, Waterhouse splashed $50 million (that figure has since been shot down by NRL’s general manager of strategic projects Shane Mattiske, who went on record saying that the public estimates had been “exaggerated”) in acquiring the NRL’s gambling partnership away from TAB Sportsbet. Apparently, his appearance on a sporting event that his company is sponsoring rubbed some people of the wrong way, certainly enough to the point that a parliamentary committee investigating potential breaches of regulations regarding gambling and broadcasting had to intervene, telling the NRL and its broadcast partner Nine Network to diminish Waterhouse’s onscreen role to avoid further controversy.
Needless to say, the fallout from that episode has caused sweeping changes in policy from some of the parties indirectly involved in Waterhouse’s appearance during the NRL broadcast. Free TV Australia, which represents all of Australia’s commercial free-to-air television licensee, released proposed amendments to the country’s Commercial Television Code of Practice last month. Among the amendments that were added into Free TV’s proposal include preventing stop commentators and their guests from promoting live odds, but still allow sponsored segments to promote the odds whenever the game is not in play, such as during a scheduled break or suspension of play.