The Australian joint select committee investigating the role of gambling advertising and sports says industry self-regulation isn’t working. The committee, which earned headlines via its demonization of independent bookie Tom Waterhouse’s onscreen promotion of live betting odds during Channel Nine’s National Rugby League broadcasts, says the government should step in if broadcasters prove unable or unwilling to comply with its recommendations. Last month, while the committee was still preparing its report, Prime Minister Julia Gillard tasked broadcasters with coming up with a code severely limiting gambling ads during televised sports or she would impose a code via legislation.
Chief among the committee’s recommendations is an end to the exemption sports enjoys from the prohibition on gambling ads during G-rated programs. Gillard has proposed allowing broadcasters to run generic gambling ads during scheduled breaks in play, while Greens Sen. Richard Di Natale – a prominent member of the committee – has proposed legislation that would put a blanket ban on all gambling ads before 9:30pm. The committee recommended against passage of Di Natale’s bill, which received its first reading in the House of Representatives on June 3. An annoyed Di Natale warned that the committee had failed to recognize that betting was becoming “normalized” for children.
The committee also recommended that the government investigate gambling promotion at sports venues, including stadium signage and the logos of player jerseys, “to determine whether the amount is appropriate in what is marketed as a family friendly environment.” The report included testimony from Wollongong University associate professor Samantha Thomas, whose research said young people could identify at least two or three betting firms by name. To underscore that point – and to take yet another shot at their favorite whipping boy – the report also featured a photo of Waterhouse on the sidelines of an NRL match, signing autographs for children who apparently recognized him from his television appearances.
Even Waterhouse’s Channel Nine buddies are eager to finger the bright-eyed bookie as the betting boogieman. This week, Nine Entertainment CEO David Gyngell told attendees at the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney that Waterhouse’s appearances had failed the broadcaster’s “moral compass.” While copping to the possibility that the network had “pushed it too far,” Gyngell believes “the lightning rod of Tom Waterhouse was Tom being the way he is.” Yeah, how dare the man who loves his job keep on smiling while he’s at work?