Bookie becomes 'commentator' to get around gambling code

Tom Waterhouse
Tom Waterhouse Scott Barbour / Getty Images

BOOKMAKER Tom Waterhouse's controversial appearances on Channel Nine's Friday night rugby league coverage this season have exposed a serious loophole in the impending code of practice banning the broadcasting of live odds, a parliamentary committee has been told.

The inquiry into the advertising and promotion of gambling services in sport heard from Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy officials and the Australian Crime Commission on Tuesday.

When asked specifically whether the recent appearances by Mr Waterhouse would be covered by the new code, departmental officials indicated that unless it was during the match and Mr Waterhouse was deemed to be a "commentator" - as distinct from bookmaker - there would be no breach of the code.

Mr Waterhouse reportedly paid Nine $15 million to become the face of the "betting spot" on Friday night, State of Origin and Test broadcasts.

He also reportedly shelled out close to $50 million to be the National Rugby League's official gambling partner.

His appearances this season have sparked outrage, with the broadcaster using him as a pre-match "commentator", complete with Channel Nine microphone.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who sits on the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, said it appeared the code would be powerless to stop this type of arrangement.

He said it was up to the Federal Government to prevent online bookies from appearing on commentary panels, flagging a legislative move in the absence of government action.

"How on Earth is a 10-year-old child going to work out the difference between a bookie sitting on a commentary panel and those who are analysing the game?" Senator Xenophon said.

"The only way to stop the normalising of gambling and sport is to have federal legislation to stop the live odds being rammed down our throats.

"It seems when it comes to standing up to this intrusion to our sports via the likes of Tom Waterhouse, this government is up the creek without a paddle."

Topics:  australian government, channel nine, gambling, nick xenophon, nrl, sport, tom waterhouse



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