The
Nine Network went big on cricket last week, making it the big selling point for the rest of 2006. The
network made no secret of its desire to make as much money
as possible from what will be the highest rating cricket series in Australian TV
history. And Nine is
going all out to provide as many avenues for itself, its clients and the rest of
the PBL Empire, to maximise returns from the five Tests and the one day
internationals.

Besides
the wall to wall live broadcasts, there will be a new version of The Cricket Show andan infomercial-style, product placement-rich program called Jack of All
Trades
. But the betting is through Betfair Australia, which is
half-owned by Nine’s parent, PBL. Nine
and its PBL masters see this as the first time to bring Betfair into the
promotional machine associated with a major national sporting event in
Australia and we will
see gambling on a non-racing sporting event in Australia
promoted like no other has been promoted in the past.

At the
moment Betfair punters can punt on cricket on the UK website. The
Tasmanian Gaming licence was granted to Betfair n February and the Hobart-based Australian arm will
be up and running (with call centre, servers and online business) from later
this month.

Punters
at the moment can take their chance on games including the current English
domestic scene, the England-Pakistan series, the Sri Lanka South Africa series
and the forthcoming Bangladesh-Zimbabwe one day series.

There’s
already an early market for the Ashes with Australia a very
hot favourite.

The
England-Pakistan series is the major interest and punters (who must be
registered with Betfair) can bet on series score, series winner, top
England batsmen, top
England bower and the Top Pakistani
batsmen and the top Pakistani bowler.

Although details are not available, there have been
suggestions inside PBL that the punters might be able to bet on next wicket and
taken by which bowler: whether they would go as far as the Indian bookmakers and
accept bets on next scorer, next four etc, is problematic because that’s where
all those nasty “match fixing” claims and counter claims
started.

The
programming of the Ashes Tests coverage live in all cities for at least the
first four days of each Test is easy seeing they are all sellouts, and the one
day matches will be televised live in Sydney and Melbourne and live against the
gate in other cities where ever possible.

With
this background, I wonder if the sport and people like Australian captain, Ricky
Ponting fully understand the extent to which there will be online and telephone betting on the Ashes series and the One Day
Internationals.

PBL has
paid an estimated $30 million for 50% of Betfair Australia and
would want a return straight away, and the Ashes Test series and ODI will
provide the ideal opportunity.

Peter Fray

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