It hardly seems possible, but Australian bookie Tom Waterhouse has managed to make yet another enemy. Michael Sullivan, CEO of Sportingbet has accused Waterhouse of “acting irresponsibly” via his onscreen appearances during Channel Nine’s National Rugby League coverage, which have drawn criticism from a parliamentary committee and are believed to have been behind the NRL’s decision earlier this week to back away from a reported $50m sponsorship deal with Waterhouse.
Sullivan told Fairfax Media it “makes me sick in the guts when [Waterhouse] comes on TV. The frequency of his appearances is what’s also driving people mad and Channel Nine has a lot to answer for.” Sportingbet doesn’t promote live odds on sports broadcasts and Sullivan “wouldn’t have a problem” with measures like South Australia’s proposed ban on such activities.
Waterhouse and corporate bookie Tabcorp are the only two firms that do promote live odds via sports broadcasts, but Tabcorp issued a statement saying it “supports the introduction of further controls on sports betting advertising, but it they’re to be effective they need to be nationally applied and enforced.”
Careful what you wish for, because backbench Labor MP Stephen Jones plans to introduce a motion calling for a ban on all gambling advertising on television before 8:30pm. Jones claims that every other MP he’s spoken to has pledged their support for his motion but one anonymous Labor MP told News Ltd. that “now may not be the right time to do this coming into an election” in September while another MP claimed Jones was merely chasing publicity by lending his name to a hot-button issue.
Sullivan said a ban on all gambling ads was “going too far … that would impede new entrants to the market.” Gerard Daffy, spokesman for bookie TattsBet agreed that new operators would find it difficult to make an impression, but said operators with a strong retail presence would be largely unaffected by a blanket ban. A spokesperson for Betfair, which hasn’t paid for odds promotion on TV in three years, said it would also support a limited ban.
Not quite finished taking young Waterhouse to the woodshed, Sullivan suggested the third-generation bookie was “trying to court this hype – perhaps with an eye to selling his business.” Waterhouse’s business was the subject of sale rumors earlier this year, the volume of which eventually grew loud enough that UK bookie Ladbrokes – which, unlike many of its competitors, lacks an Australian presence – issued a statement denying speculation that it had offered to buy 50% of Waterhouse’s business.
Sullivan described his company, Tabcorp and Paddy Power’s Aussie division Sportsbet as part of the “98% of the gambling market [that] has been doing the right thing for years” while upstart Waterhouse represents the other 2%. Bad timing then, for Sportsbet to be caught running a banner ad on the Ballarat Junior Football Netball League club website. Sportsbet issued a statement acknowledging that the ad placement “contravenes Sportsbet’s terms and conditions” but blamed the “inappropriate” mixup on a club volunteer who was updating the site, which shares a home with the senior Ballarat FC page.