Free TV Australia’s announcement this morning that it plans to restrict the promotion of live odds during sports broadcasts is a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing meaningful will change — just the appearance and obviousness of the spruiking from the likes of Tom Waterhouse.

Under the new rules, commentators and their guests will be prohibited from promoting live odds during a game, and for 30 minutes before and after the game. But other persons — “including discrete and distinguishable representatives of gambling organisations” — can promote live odds before the game, during scheduled breaks and after the game:

  • A promotion of Live Odds for a live sporting event is not permitted during play.
  • Commentators and their guests will be prohibited from promoting live odds as part of a broadcast of a live sporting event:

– at any time during play (including during breaks in play);
– during the period 30 minutes before play commences; and
– during the period 30 minutes after play has concluded.

  • A promotion of live odds relating to a live sporting event by other persons, including discrete and distinguishable representatives of gambling organisations, is permitted:

– before play commences;
– during scheduled breaks in play;
– during a suspension in play; and
– after the cessation of play but only where that promotion is an advertisement or clearly identified.

Talk about a loophole. Or a yawning crevasse of opportunity for Waterhouse and other bookies to continue spruiking their odds.The cute line in the above about “discrete and distinguishable representatives of gambling organisations” in effect gives carte blanche for the existing situation to continue, but in a less obvious manner. And with more money flowing to the networks.

Making matters worse, the changes do not apply to horse, harness and greyhound racing. So the Seven Network’s racing broadcasts will be continue to be full of odds touting. Tommy was flogging his horse racing products during the rugby league last Friday night on Nine. And the proposed changes do not stop the commentators and others (if they are directed by their employers as part of an advertising/sponsorship deal) from telling us that Waterhouse is a fine chap, or that Tab.com.au is a great website to visit.

Instead of Waterhouse shouting and spruiking his wares on the commentary panel, we will now see the TV equivalent of touts and coat tuggers telling us the odds — but in a paid segment for the networks, meaning more revenue for them. We already have spruiking heads for Tab on Seven’s sporting coverage giving us odds before the game as part of a sponsorship arrangement. Waterhouse does the same for Nine. That won’t change, although they may have to tone down the Tab look and uniforms. But due to his frequency of appearance on Nine and in his ads, you could argue Waterhouse isn’t all that “discrete”, but he certainly is “distinguishable”.

This is a compromise that benefits the revenue and profit-challenged networks — not the viewer. Why did free TV bother with what amounts to a bit of meaningless fiddling? To be seen to be doing something, while really doing nothing and making sure its struggling members benefit financially from this fine example of non-self-regulation.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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