Wherever a ball is kicked, a race is run or a hook shot played you can be certain someone in this country will be keen to have a bet on the outcome.

Sports betting in Australia is big business and it is growing at a rate of knots. It’s not surprising, then, that the Coalition of Major Professional Sports (consisting of Cricket Australia, ARU, NRL, FFA and Tennis Australia) has just won a significant victory with the ACCC giving it the green light to enter into a collective revenue-sharing deal with major betting operators.

According to ARU boss Gary Flowers the deal is all about grabbing a share of the punting kitty to plough back into sport at a grass roots level.

It seems reasonable that the coalition would look at Tabcorp and other betting operations like Betfair making a killing off the back of its sports events and feel that they’re pretty much getting a free ride.

Though taxes paid by the betting operators make a significant contribution to the general revenue of various state governments, there is no guarantee that this money ends up back in the sports on which they were bet.

Betfair’s sweetheart deal in Tasmania made it easier for it to accommodate Cricket Australia when it came calling recently. The link between Betfair and PBL also meant that the company that controls cricket on TV in this country wins both ways if we all start betting madly on how many catches Monty Panesar will drop in the next Test.

While the pot of gold at the end of the betting rainbow has sports administrators salivating, they should take a step back and think hard before signing on.

The problem is one of perception. Cricket has been crippled in recent times by betting and match-fixing scandals that have damaged the reputation and integrity of the sport.

With communities all across the country asking questions about the costs associated with the proliferation of poker machines and other forms of gambling, major sport has to ask itself some tough questions.

Does it believe part of its role is to contribute to the growth of social capital and the general health of the community as part of its corporate social responsibility?

And if the answer to that question is yes, then how does it reconcile those goals with a direct relationship with the gaming industry?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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