Tom Waterhouse called ‘gutless’ for ducking parliamentary committee; Betfair pleads guilty to inducements

TAGs: Andrew Wilkie, Australia, Betfair, richard di natale, Tom Waterhouse, Victoria

tom-waterhouse-gutlessAustralian bookie Tom Waterhouse will not be legally compelled to attend a parliamentary hearing into the promotion of gambling in sports. On Monday, Waterhouse declined a formal invitation to attend the hearing, prompting the committee’s Greens and independent members to call for Waterhouse to be served with a summons demanding his attendance. But this move was voted down by the other members of the committee, leaving the anti-gambling crowd without a sacrificial lamb to publicly skewer.

Waterhouse had declined a previous invitation on the grounds that he had prior scheduling commitments, but did send a letter denying claims that his television appearances had ever targeted children. This time around, Waterhouse offered no explanation for his non-attendance, leading Sen. Richard di Natale to call Waterhouse “gutless.” Di Natale said Waterhouse had displayed “a lack of courage [and] total contempt for the parliament and the community.”

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie echoed di Natale’s contempt comment, adding that Waterhouse was “starting to believe some of the media hype about him being racing royalty and above the parliament.” Perhaps. But it’s far more likely that Waterhouse, a third-generation bookie and the son of famed horse trainer Gai Waterhouse, simply had no interest in acting as a piñata for di Natale and Wilkie to whack with sticks.

The fuss raised by the committee has already contributed to the collapse of Waterhouse’s $50m National Rugby League sponsorship, the scaling back of the bookie’s appearances on Channel Nine’s NRL broadcasts and now South Australia is pressing for a total ban on live betting odds during sports broadcasts. As such, the committee’s anti-gambling faction appears to have achieved its immediate goals, that is, except for the opportunity to publicly yell ‘in your face’ at young Waterhouse.

Throw in the fact that Tom just got through disproving unfounded allegations of trading on insider info on horse races, and is it really any wonder that he has no interest in serving up his own head on a platter? No doubt someone called the Light Brigade’s commanding officer ‘gutless’ right before he decided a lively canter through the Valley of Death was the smart option. Not our Tom.

Meanwhile, the Australian arm of betting exchange Betfair has copped to offering inducements to gamblers to open betting accounts. Victorian state law prohibits gambling firms from sweetening promotional pitches by offering free bets, rebates and the like to new customers in order to convince them to sign up. (Paddy Power’s Aussie offshoot Sportsbet is currently appealing a conviction in Victoria over this issue, even though Sportsbet isn’t even licensed in Victoria.)

On Tuesday, Betfair (which is licensed in Victoria) pleaded guilty to two counts of offering inducements stemming from a promotion during the 2010 spring racing carnival. Specifically, Betfair had offered new and existing clients who deposited $50 a “win or refund” to a maximum of $50 on their “first bet this spring.” Punters were also promised a package including a leather racebook and a ‘free drinks’ voucher at the Melbourne Racing Club. The Age quoted Betfair attorney Jack Tracey saying Betfair had immediately pulled the offer and cooperated with investigators after being alerted to their transgression. Magistrate Phillip Goldberg placed Betfair on a 12-month non-conviction bond for having subjected punters to “improper influences.”


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