Defending the indefensible

7 April 2013 Comments 7

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 –

7 comments on "Defending the indefensible"

  1. geoff stewart on 7 April 2013

    Not only on tv and radio but what about newsagencys – tatslotto and scracies

  2. Steven on 7 April 2013

    I do not like the interspersing of the bookmakers odds in broadcasts by Tom Waterhouse simply because it is product placement – I would feel similarly unhappy if I was watching athletics and had to hear about Athlete Y’s excellent performance in Skins brand compression garments.

    I just feel this article could be summed up as “I don’t like product/service Y, remove it from the media” – without really establishing a solid case that its mention does any harm. Couldn’t this be leveled at any product placement in media viewed by children/impressionable people? (I tend to shy away from a “won’t somebody think of the children” emotive style argument)

    Are prominent billboards showing popular pro athletes wearing compression garments conditioning people to think that they cannot compete without the aid of special garments to enhance their performance over people without these? (given the number of people wearing them in gyms for very light workouts you could argue yes, it is just a cynical trick to part people with money – like Tom’s product placements)

    Note, I am actually a supporter of your products – I wear Skins in competition, for recovery during tournaments, and took time out to participate in the Skins 3D body scanning some years ago (I thought that was particularly good to see). I just felt this article was a bit off-base.

    • Jaimie Fuller SKINS Chairman on 22 April 2013

      Hey Steven
      Thanks mate for your response and sincere apologies for taking so long to
      I think you’ve missed the point old china. We all know that marketing is
      marketing. Whether it’s SKINS billboards, TV/magazine ads or our
      website/watercooler, they are there to build our brand and to try and show
      what we do and what we stand for. Obviously the goal is to sell our
      The key point however is wearing SKINS is not detrimental to one’s health
      in any way. In fact, the concept of our product that improves
      recovery which then enables one to get out more and do more exercise does
      exactly the opposite – it’s good for you.
      You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to know that gambling can have a most
      damaging effect. Lives have been ruined, marriages have been ruined,
      people have been driven to suicide as a result of gambling addictions and
      what it has done to them. It’s self evident. I think you are trying to
      claim otherwise and am perplexed.
      Sorry buddy but I cannot agree with your point
      Thanks for taking the time though to write your thoughts. I love a good

  3. Craiggg on 7 April 2013

    Despite the fact that you still have that “I’ve got a carrot up my a#$e” picture and not the smiley one, couldn’t agree more!! HOW Gai Waterhouse got given front page feature for that response is beyond me…oh yes.. its not news, it’s the telegraph!

    The most truthful sentence was, of course, the first one!!!

    The biggest challenge we all face is holding standards, making change, avoiding poor decisions in the face of multi million dollar advertising and promotion… all advertising, no matter whatthey say and do, there is always collatoral damage!

    Why do kids love Maccas over an apple… 100million dollar advertising budgets definietly helps, versus the $200K a year promotional budget for the humble apple. There is no such thing as an even playing field when the money pit is long deep and wide…. hence obesity…. governments need to legislate in this area also because we are creating our own health crisis and it is costing humble taxpayers dearly in terms of theburden on the health system, while the food and beverage industry offer nothing in terms of health support for the influence their advertising plays!!

    Convenience stores are not convenient anymore, they are just flogging high calorie crud, and like coca cola’s vision, making it difficult to refuse because it’s “always in reach”. The should be re-branded “Fat Stores” as the majority of their shelving is chips, chocolates and soft drinks.

    Good choices are good choices, but its hard to make a good choice when the bad fairy is constantly in your ear saying “FEED ME FEED ME” and the advertising is front and centre several times a day for everyone of those 365 days a year.

    Enjoy ….


  4. andy chrysiliou on 8 April 2013

    This Tom Waterhouse involvement in sport is a complete beat up. It shadows other factors such as drugs or the fcat that rugby is a brutual game with a 16 year old facing having his life support turned off today after a tackle.

    Make no mistake sport is now big business…in fact its gambling links dates back to eraly days and professional sports would not be where they are today without the gambling element.

    Sport is not so much about honour any more but making money is the driving factor. Who can say that some can make money by exposure and others cannot. At least Tom Waterhouse puts 15 million into the sports kitty.

    In this day and age betting is lower end of the scale of the dangers facing children by exposure to television.

    As Chris Berges of the Age puts it:
    ” apparently there are still people who believe sport reduces social tension; people who are able to ignore the decades of violence and nationalistic politics that have swirled around domestic and international sport. And many of these romanticists appear to view the industry of sport with horror.”

    “By now, everybody who is not a first-year arts student has come to terms with the fact that sport involves money. An older debate along these lines – about whether sport should remain amateur or go professional – looks very quaint from the vantage of the 21st century.
    Sports betting is just the latest bogyman – yet another threat to that romantic vision. Yet betting on sport is as old as sport itself. One British sports historian, Wray Vamplew, says that much of the strict codification of the rules of sport in the 19th century was driven by the needs of gambling. Early punters found it hard to bet when the rules weren’t codified.
    So the sudden panic about odds being broadcast on television is a bit precious – a triumph of the mythology of sport over the reality of sport. It is indicative that most critics of sports betting say they are not worried about the betting so much as seeing the odds on television. They don’t want to break the fantasy. They don’t want to see the revenue streams behind the curtain.

    Read more:

    • Jaimie Fuller SKINS Chairman on 22 April 2013

      Hey John
      Been meaning to write to you for ages re your note but have been flat
      chat. Currently at 39,000 feet between LAX and Sydney so have some time
      without distractions – 15 hours to be exact.
      Gai is an amazing woman and obviously like any mother gets fiercely
      protective of her son but that doesn’t change anything. She is truly
      racing royalty in Australian terms as daughter of Tommy Smith and married
      to Robbie Waterhouse of the Bookies dynasty fame. No question she deserves
      respect and acknowledgement for her position but in this debate she is
      nothing more than a mother, plus she’s conflicted.
      From what I can see this problem is far worse in Australia than anywhere
      else in the world. I see it is getting worse in the UK but not as bad.
      I really hope that someone sees some sense and does something. I’m sure it
      will happen but it’ll just take time. I see this as being in the same
      category as when smoking was so entrenched in sport too
      Thanks John good to chat