Five bucks says you’ve loved this summer of cricket
If your household is anything like mine, I’ve got five bucks that says your kids now know a hell of a lot more than they did about gambling before this summer of cricket on Channel Nine.
This year’s cricket coverage became one of the most effective vehicles for obsessive gambling the nation has seen.
I am a long way from being a wowser, I enjoy the odd punt and am a frequent and enthusiastic visitor to the greyhounds, always with the kids in tow. But the nature of the outlays being offered on Nine through its new commercial betting partner has not only been incessant, but a bit of an insult to everyone’s intelligence, as so much of it was framed around the kind of moronic chance-based exotic betting which is about as sophisticated as punting on the time-honoured two flies up a wall.
It is impossible to exaggerate the ease with which the details of these ludicrous wagers are absorbed by kids. My son is six years old and by the end of the New Year’s Test in Sydney he had become something of a global expert on the world of exotic betting, due to the many scenarios which were the subject of markets, spruiked constantly between overs on Channel Nine.
Some of the bets were so dopey that you expected them to start giving odds on whether Michael Clarke would get another tattoo, whether they’d serve Gatorade, Powerade or margaritas during the drinks break, or whether Ed Cowan would smash Inzamam Ul Haq’s record and actually run out his entire team through his zany YES NO YES NO NOOOOOOOO approach to running between wickets.
As a kid I can remember rabbiting on endlessly to Dad about statistics or asking him to come out the front with a tennis ball so I could try to replicate John Dyson’s catch in the deep. A generation on, so much of the conversation with my own son this summer was about how they would “give” you (his term) $1.40 if Michael Clarke made more than 50 in the second innings.
This is the problem with this type of betting, and with its unfettered promotion in an environment such as a cricket broadcast which is aimed in equal parts at adults but also at really young kids. Kids have no sense of the reality surrounding this type of betting. It is different from taking them along to the races or the dishlickers a few times a year where you tell them it’s something special, where you spend a couple of bucks each way on a handful of races, have a nice meal at the carvery, and tell them that there is nothing wrong with heading out occasionally to have a flutter when you are actually at the track.
The type of betting being promoted through Channel Nine is ever-present, immediate and impulsive, and designed to be done on an iPhone, which as every parent knows is something which any decent six-year-old can use to the point of mastery. Kids end up thinking that if you guess the right answer some nice person out there in the ether will “give” you money. If only that were the case.
From the arsenal of nanny state advertising on our television screens, one of the most effective ads involves the bloke getting on the squirt at a family barbecue, singing out to his son “cmon mate get Dad another beer”. It’s not a bad ad, I suppose, in that it reminds parents that this kind of behaviour while innocuous on the surface does serve to legitimise binge-drinking in the eyes of the kiddies. No-one seems to be applying the same type of approach to the question of gambling though. As Julie Barnes wrote on the website Mamamia this week, when she took her eight-year-old son to the Boxing Day Test, there were ropes at the beer queues to make sure that kids didn’t get close to the grog, and rightly so, yet between overs the screen was telling everyone to get on and have a lash on whatever absurd set of odds had been cooked up.
Equally, writing in Melbourne’s Herald Sun on Friday, Patrick Carlyon made the good point about the absurdity of the little mandated catchcry – “Remember, Always Gamble Responsibly” – when the character of the bets on offer was so daft as to be innately irresponsible.
The weird thing about all this constant exotic betting is that in Australia we will smugly tut-tut about the parlous state of gambling in a country such as India. It has long been argued that the problem in India has stemmed principally from the offering of exotic bets – that is, on things like the number of no balls bowled. Not only does it give people a chance to bet on something which requires no knowledge at all of the game, but it also creates the circumstances where players and administrators will be massively tempted to get involved in corrupt and covert punting.
As I said at the start, a wowser I am not. We have enough laws already in this country, and between grog, smokes and road safety, there is enough nanny state advertising kicking around to keep the ad agencies flush with cash into the next century. What interests me is the extent to which so many things are restricted or regulated, and the fact that this relatively new industry is not. To that end, the summer of 2012-2013 is likely to mark the high watermark for these cowboys who would turn all of us, young and old, into webbed-up, cash-poor gambling tragics who did our dough on whether Nathan Lyon would bat twice at the SCG, and whether he’d be wearing a cap, a hat or a sombrero when he took the crease.
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