Sports betting: Gambling’s no game
A mate of mine has a nephew at private school in Sydney. Apparently, many of the kids are betting on the dogs, with one boy losing $1200 in a single day.
Some might think the loss of $1200 is just deserts for a rich little twit with too much cash on his hands. I think it’s just one more sign that sports betting is out of control in Australia.
Here’s another one: an Adelaide businessman recently rang SA Senator Nick Xenophon’s office in a bid to warn others about online gambling during AFL matches. He’d lost $85,000 in three weeks after being enticed by one of those gambling ads that run relentlessly during televised games.
“It was so simple it wasn’t funny ... I’m so ashamed that I was suckered into it,” he said.
Buoyed by his success in tipping comps, he began by betting on who would win the games. Then he wagered on the first to 50 points, before drilling down to the high-odds bets like the first goal-kicker.
Luckily his bank savings saved him from debt. But get this; despite opening his account online and make a single bet of over $50,000 online, he couldn’t automatically close his account online. He could only suspend it (presumably in case he saves another $85,000 to lose in future). Apparently you need to ring or email before your account can be closed.
Seems like yesterday that betting was something Uncle Bill did at some smelly TAB or in a darkened corner of the front bar. The rest of us had a giddy flutter in the $2 sweep on Melbourne Cup Day.
Almost overnight, betting has become synonymous with professional sport. As the Sportsbet website says, we can thank the internet for that: “The days of queuing up to place a bet on your footy team are well and truly a thing of the past… That means less time waiting and more time betting. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Actually, I don’t think it can get much worse. Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy nailed it when he described live betting as an “insidious” culture being “pushed down people’s throats”.
Remember those betting ‘market updates’ that punctured nightly viewing of the Australian Open tennis last summer? During the World Cup Soccer you weren’t “really” a Socceroos supporter unless you backed them with your wallet.
Flashing signs on the boundary fence at AAMI Stadium last Sunday urged fans to bet Crows or Power (and sorry fellas, but surely no-one was that desperate to part with their cash?)
All of this normalises betting - especially for those who aren’t old enough to remember when sport was played and watched simply because we loved the game.
Not before time, governments and sporting codes are moving to tighten the reins on this bolting horse. Commonwealth and state governments have unanimously agreed to end the promotion of live betting odds during games of football, cricket and other major sports from June next year.
And a coalition of the major bodies has called for stronger laws to protect their codes from corruption, urging jail terms for match fixers and the power to veto ‘exotic’ in-play bets.
Governments should go further than that. Sporting codes which have jumped into bed with betting agencies to boost their coffers should not have the power to decide which bets are OK. As Nick Xenophon argues, the Federal Government should outlaw all in-play wagers because they’re more easily corrupted.
I’m not so worried about match fixing – the major codes know that one whiff of scandal will ruin public trust, and most players are bright enough to know there’s too much to lose.
I am worried, though, about my boys growing up with the idea that betting wads of cash is a normal part of life as a sports fan. Right now, the odds are stacked against them.
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