While the Tasmanian
Government busies itself for a highly contentious marriage license with
UK-based betting exchange Betfair before the end of the year, it looks
to have found a willing gate crasher to ease the way forward. While racing
and Betfair are at war outside the UK, the AFL sees no such problem in climbing aboard the Betfair express.

According to
Damian Barrett in today’s Herald Sun, the league is about to approve formal
licensing agreements with both Betfair and Tabcorp – to be sanctioned as
approved AFL betting agencies. The deal would allow both agencies to market and brand themselves with the AFL
trademark, in return for a commission guaranteed to be at least $1 million a year from
next season. It would also clear up any
possible legal questions as to their use of the league fixture as intellectual
property, just as racing in Victoria is now looking to shore up its race-day IP
via fresh legislation.

Barrett says
the two deals will be signed this week and, aside from the revenue stream, these
deals would provide the league with access to football betting data and other
intelligence pertinent to monitoring transactions and market
fluctuations. Betting on AFL
takes many forms: from picking the premiership winner, to the Brownlow Medal,
leading goal-kicker and of course the weekly club fixtures, where there are a
wide variety of exotic betting modes available.

Football –
unlike racing where backing a horse to lose in a multi-horse race is viewed by
the Australian racing industry as easily manipulated – is a much
tougher nut to crack for anyone trying to fix an outcome. As current Carlton club president and former
AFL operations boss Ian Collins once said to me while discussing the growth in
sports betting, AFL is a game almost impossible to fix unless you have an umpire
on the take – and given there are three field umpires that’s even less
likely.

Presuming
Barrett is on the money, Betfair has given itself and
Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon an early Christmas present.

It’s one thing for Lennon to be vilified by the mainland
racing industry for getting into bed with Betfair when the time comes,
but it will be much easier for both parties now the Premier can point to
the AFL as a willing partner. And while racing continues to
rage against Betfair, the other major domestic sports including the NRL
and cricket are probably next up – all anxious to stick their snouts in
the trough for a slice of the wagering industry.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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