As the only person in the world who knows without fear of contradiction that he’s never wrong, it’s not often I agree wholeheartedly with someone else. And, as it’s such a rare occurrence I thought I’d share it with you.
You may recall that I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about gambling in sport? Within it, I talked about the infiltration of a betting culture into almost any televised sporting event with the basic principle being that kids sitting down to watch their heroes play, are unavoidably – and dangerously – exposed to gambling by a glorified approach to the possibility of winning easy money.
This week, Australian journalist and former Wallabies Rugby star (and fellow Knox old-boy), Peter FitzSimons turned up the heat on a young guy who reflects everything I think is wrong about gambling and televised sport. I couldn’t find a sentence of Peter’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald to disagree with.
Tom Waterhouse is a young, Australian entrepreneur whose appearances as a television commentator provide the perfect vehicle to publicise his own bookmaking business. As he previews the action, Tom spices it all up by quoting the odds on potential outcomes and promoting his own company. It’s a cosy and, no doubt profitable little scenario. Recent criticism of the association in the Aussie press led to Tom’s Mum, high profile race horse trainer Gai Waterhouse, leaping to her son’s defense. No problem with the basic premise; it’s what mother’s do.
What Gai overlooked – and Peter highlighted in his article – was that in displaying the natural tendency to protect her child, she was actually making the very point that everyone else is talking about. Parents across Australia and, dare I suggest all over the world, are concerned that THEIR children require protection from blatant activity that convinces the impressionable there’s a quick and easy way to earn a few bucks.
Usually, there’s only one winner in that scenario and in this case, he’s the one smiling at you down the camera. Problem is, young, innocent kids learn to think it’s the way forward while most sensible citizens understand that it’s anything but a ‘sure thing’. Unfortunately, there’s no way of separating the two.
As I said last time, I’m not against gambling. For those who fancy a bit of excitement with money they can afford to lose, great; go knock yourself out. But as Pete says in his piece, don’t try and tell me that parents can always switch the television off if they’re concerned, because that’s the argument of someone who deep down knows he’s on a slippery slope. Why should kids be prevented from watching sport on TV because the TV networks, governing organisations and even the relevant governments are not prepared to maintain a social conscience?
I don’t actually blame Tom Waterhouse in all this. As a young, successful businessman (the little darling is only 30) he’s seen a gap in the market and made the most of it. They reckon he paid Australia’s Channel Nine TV station around AU $15 million for the privilege of touting his gambling company’s wares at televised sports events. Legally, he’s doing nothing wrong but there should be legislation in place that prevents him – or anyone else – from doing it. He’s not breaking the law, but he is breaking down the barriers erected by social conscience. The TV networks and the governments need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Openly promoting and glorifying betting to an audience that’s full of impressionable, innocent kids is WRONG. And when anyone, let along a millionaire upstart’s own mother, starts pontificating about narrow-minded do-gooders in order to defend socially indefensible broadcasting, then I get really angry. In business there are limits and this crosses the line in my book.
In Australia, there’s a petition to ban sports betting information from sports broadcasting that was started by a Sydney Morning Herald reader. Peter mentioned it in his article and I’m delighted to support the instigators by following suit. Even if you’re not Australian, you might consider that it’s worth adding some international weight and if you do, here’s the link –
Good on ya Pete, keep up the good work.
If you want to read Peter’s original article, here’s the link –