Posted May 21, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Gambling causes a moral outrage but alcohol causes more deaths


As focus on the increasing prevalence of gambling intensifies, it does seem odd that more people die from alcohol issues than from gambling. There is an all too inevitable outcry against gambling but perhaps our protesting is as nothing compared to the reactions currently being seen in Australia.

Tom Waterhouse is a professional bookie who has been seen providing live betting odds during coverage of NRL, the Australian Rugby League format. His appearances have sparked outrage amongst some sections of Australias political elite and have prompted the government to announce that it will crack down on the appearance of live betting odds during sports coverage. The proposals recently put forward mean that the popular advertising slots are now banned on TV.

Tom Waterhouse, the main proponent of the advertising has apologised for the saturation coverage he has used in the past and now says he intends to swicth his advertising to place it with the sports directly. This he helpfully suggests, will be of direct benefit to the sports themselves.

The Waterhouse apology for his aggressive advertising has been seen in different ways. Members of the political elite such as ex Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcome his moves. Rudd said in an interview with Seven Network “The public want to watch their football in peace” while shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said “You should have a betting-free opportunity to sport on TV.”

Others in Australia do not seem to be quite as satisfied with Mr. Waterhouses move. He now faces loud calls to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into sports betting because his apology contradicts earlier evidence he gave to the enquiry when he maintained there was no issue with the number of advertising slots his business was taking during sports coverage.

It seems as though Australia is facing concerns about the ways its gambling industry has been progressing, much as the United Kingdom is facing a wake up call. This week sees the government announce new restrictions on the operation of fixed odds betting terminals and is set to see more bitter response from the industry.

Unlike Australia, where the industry appears to be attempting to engage with concerns and answer them, UK based William Hill has just announced a raft of betting shop closures. In its press release it focusses on the hardship being caused for employees losing their job and disingenuously plays the blame at the door of the government without adequately commenting on the dangerous impact fixed odds betting terminals, the “crack cocaine of gambling” can have on the lives on poor people.