User:Marchibald/Exotic betting in the AFL essay

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Over the past 3-4 years gambling has become an ever increasing issue for modern sport to deal with. Gambling agencies have began associating with major sporting codes around the country in order to tap into the mass audience that watches professional sport both live and at home. With an increase in gambling opportunities we are seeing more and more evidence of match fixing. Over the 2011 season a number of high profile players and coaches have been subject to AFL punishment for breaching the rules set in place by the league in terms of gambling on games.

On the back of this the Government, mainly Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Mark Arbib, have come out with the intention of putting in national legislation which would see all exotic bet types banned from the game. These bet types include last scorer, first scoring play and number of goals for each possession. The Government believes these types of bets being available is leading to an increase in the opportunity for all involved in the game to break the rules for their own benefit. The AFL and the betting agencies both benefit significantly from each other. The AFL receives millions of dollars each year as a result of sponsorship as well as a number of clubs, radio stations and television stations which are involved in the game. In turn, the gambling agencies have the opportunity to reach millions of people with the services they provide.

All parties involve understand that something needs to be done in order to uphold the integrity of the sport within Australia, and agree that something needs to be done in order to create and fair and balanced agreement between the Government, the AFL and the gambling agencies.


Brendan Goddard of the AFL club St. Kilda playing against Carlton in Round 24, 2011 with their Centrebet shirt sponsorship .Photo by StAnselm

Gambling has been an inherent part of Australian culture from the beginning of European settlement. In the beginning it was mainly horse-racing, then lotteries, then 'poker machines' in New South Wales in the 1950s and now, with legalised gambling facilities and opportunities having expanded greatly over the past 30-odd years, all known forms of gambling seem to be available. Geoff Winter, 2002

Sports betting is the fastest growing form of gambling within Australian. Gone are the days of spending hours upon hours playing poker machines or sitting it the local TAB, due to the rise of internet-based sports betting, this new form of betting is changing the face of gambling in Australia. With faster internet speeds and the proliferation on internet-enabled mobile phones, gambling has become a ‘gamble anywhere anytime’ phenomenon with many literally losing a fortune without even leaving the comfort of their own, 2011

With such an increase in gambling we are seeing more and more bet types coming to the fore. Gone are the days of a simple win or place bet, betting agencies now allow wagers on such things as what time the first goal will be kicked, whether the first scoring play by either side will be a goal or point, the first scoring play each quarter and the first team to reach a certain number of points. These new betting forms often referred to as spot betting or ‘exotic betting’ have been making headlines throughout World sport recently due to its association with corruption. With the introduction of something like exotic betting, ball-by-ball betting, and so-called micro-betting, there has become macro opportunities for corruption., 2011

In the wake of the latest string of betting scandal engulfing the AFL, debate has intensified over sports betting and the AFL's relationship with betting agencies. In the wake of the ever increasing examples of corruption in elite sport, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, along with the backing from the minister for sport Mark Arbib, have called on the AFL to ban all exotic bets on the game. Xenophon warns that the AFL could soon have a question mark over its integrity and will become nothing more than a sideshow lacking the credibility that actually defines what sport is all about.Sydney Morning Herald, 2011

This article will examine both the positive and negative ramifications of such a proposed ban considering all stakeholders in the game including the AFL organisation, both Federal and State Governments, and the gambling agencies. By examining all parties involved, a clearer understanding of how each party is involved will hopefully result.

The AFL's Role[edit]

Hawthorn v Essendon at the MCG- A ground filled with gambling advertisements. Photo by Simon, Mandy, Joshua, and baby Karla Yeo

Exotic betting is fast becoming a major issue in Australian Sport. With the increased popularity and money involved in the game of Australian Rules Football more and more people are seeking to make money from this. In the last year along over $300 million was wagered during the 2010 season. According to Tabcorp, 85 per cent of bets are placed on the result or the first goal kicker. Betfair and Tabcorp pay the AFL at least $2 million a year to align their products with the game. More than 20 other betting agencies pay 5 per cent of their AFL-related profits into the league's coffers and nine of the 10 Victorian clubs have sponsorship deals with bookies. Herald Sun, 2011

The AFL has been in the media spotlight of late with high profile example of Collingwood players Heath Shaw and Nick Maxwell. Shaw was suspended for 14 matches, (six matches suspended) and fined $20,000 for sharing a $20 bet with a friend on defender Maxwell to kick the opening goal against the Crows in Round 9, at odds of $101. Maxwell was sanctioned $5000, with a further $5000 suspended, for recklessly disclosing inside information to his family, which led to three account bets totalling $85 being placed on him kicking the first goal of the match.

Given what has happened in other sports in Australia, the AFL is trying to keep a short leash on potentially catastrophic issue. Over the years the AFL has been a leader in terms of anti-corruption protocols in sport, boasting an integrity services manager and an intelligence co-ordinator. The AFL currently has the most stringent measures in place around bet types that are allowed, and the agreements with wagering operators allow them to determine any form of bet that may be placed, as well as allow them to track all betting returns for any unusual activity.Sydney Morning Herald, 2011 The league's new integrity database even goes as far too include banking details and phone records of players and officials.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has admitted he is concerned about the level of gambling advertising and constant display of betting odds during match broadcasts. The AFL enforces strict regulations on its players regarding gambling. Rules state that a player is not allowed to bet on AFL matches, nor provide inside information that may affect betting odds. With respect to inside information, AFL's regulation 19a.4 dealing with "inside information" clearly states that no inside information pertaining to a team could be divulged privately. The rule states in part that a person must not disclose or provide any information, advice or opinion to any other person about the teams playing in any match, including the actual likely composition of the team, player injury, form or player tactics, outside a bona fide media interview. Daily Telegraph, 2011

The AFL and gambling agencies how come out of the front foot regarding this issue and have warned that if the Government is successful in introducing the bill to ban all exotic betting, then punters would be pushed into the black market or overseas, where the league has no control over such issue of corruption.

Although AFL boss Andrew Demetriou is concerned about the threat gambling could have on the game, he admitted that the league does not intend to sever ties with betting agencies. The latest indiscretions were picked up due to the current mechanisms in place with the betting agencies. Setting up an integrity program to detect these breaches was an important step to check insider information, and prevent a situation of more serious forms of corruption.Adelaide Now, 2011

Without this legal set-up, exotic betting would go to the black market and that would cause a significant threat to the integrity of the sport. If we banned exotic bets it would push betting underground and our integrity policy would be toothless.

Gambling Agencies[edit]

In the beginning sports advertising was dominated by tobacco industry before the government realised there was a direct link between smoking and death, then it was alcohol before legislation intervened and alcohol companies were reined in. Then it was onto the fast food giants of KFC and Macdonald’s to dominate the Australian sporting scene. The new player in this industry is the gambling lobby who is now cutting their teeth on the big business of sports sponsorship and advertising. Betting agencies have seen an opportunity to place themselves alongside elite sport and nobody has quite realised yet just how shocking the consequences may be.Daily Telegraph, 2011

Gambling agencies are fast becoming one of the biggest forms of sponsors in Australian Sport. Today there are over 30 different sports betting agencies based in Australia with many playing a big role in the financial success of Modern Sport. Gambling agencies fork out big bucks each year for sponsorship signage, jumper signage, advertising which features commentators providing in the run odds for anything from first try scorer to full time result, and even sponsoring of stadiums around the country. Now we are on the brink of even more invasion from the gambling agencies that have seen in the last few years, massive opportunity to turn all sport into a version of horse racing.Daily Telegraph, 2011

Betfair & TAB Sportsbet, two of the industry’s largest firms, sponsor the AFL directly, while the three primary radio stations, television stations Prime, Ten, and Foxtel all have ties to betting agencies. Of the 18 clubs in the competition only 3 of them do not have any connection with a betting agency which highlights the significant gorwth of gambling agencies to the sport., 2011

Sports betting conglomerates contribute millions of dollar to the AFL alone, and are a vital cog in the revenue flow of the league. It would be naive and potentially damaging for the AFL to ignore the massive sums of cash on offer which is why both the AFL and gambling agencies are fighting hard to save their current relationship.

Both parties believe that the mere fact that both Heath Shaw and Nick Maxwell were caught shows that the current steps in place are satisfactory in deterring corruption. The AFL has taken a proactive policy of keeping bet types in the hands of bookmakers that are registered and can produce betting trends at the drop of a hat. Bookmakers also declared that having a legal agreement with the AFL (and other sports) to detect betting infringements was clearly working and that to ban exotic betting would leave the sport powerless.

Alan Eskander, from bookmaking firm Betstar, attacked the NRL's decision to ban exotic betting. He said he would rather have market forces dictate what punters wanted. You are sending these bet types underground and you lose control over them. Before you know it, you will have illegal bookmakers setting up business with no restraint, no access to ledgers, and no audit trail of who backed who and when. Sydney Morning Herald, 2011

The Government[edit]

THE minister responsible for gambling in NSW, George Souris, has thrown his support behind a crackdown on negative exotic betting over the Internet, which the state government believes is threatening the integrity of professional sport. Sydney Morning Herald, 2011 The federal government last week call on major sporting codes to act on the growing promotion of live betting odds during games. The phase out is intended to cover promotion of odds at sport venues, as well as advertising on television, radio and the Internet. The explosion of sports gambling has seen the Government become actively involved in the different sporting organisations as the push to curb problem gambling throughout all aspects of Australian life.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is the driving force behind the current legislation to ban exotic gambling. Xenophon is concerned the about the AFL welcoming in these gambling companies, the sports betting agencies with their millions of dollars in sponsorships, the clubs that have done deals with them. You can't watch a footy game on TV without being bombarded with ads encouraging you to gamble, telling you the odds, and the AFL should have known that this is the inevitable consequence. What we are seeing is an all-pervasive culture in gambling, where friends and relatives are tipped off about certain games, about certain events in games, which is very concerning for the, 2011

Laws at every level have not kept up with the changing nature of sport, and government must play a big role in the control of betting regulations. It's important to get the regulation right, and in a balanced manner, that doesn't force people off into the black market or into overseas betting. The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) has created a paper which makes three major recommendations for sporting organisations:

  • Sports-specific national legislation which carries severe penalties for cheating in connection with betting.
  • Sports can veto exotic or spot bets that they think are at risk of corruption.
  • Victoria's sports betting act is adopted across all states and territories, meaning all betting agencies must have integrity agreements with sports.

Sports Minister Mark Arbib has also come out in support of Senator Xenophon and said “without national consistency on these issues, we simply don't believe that our governments are taking this issue seriously enough. We are very supportive of the Victorian legislation and believe that should be looked on as a national approach”. Sydney Morning Herald, 2011 The Government wants to ensure they have tough regulations in place to prevent match fixing, while also ensuring we don't drive betting onto the black market.


Sporting organisations, especially the AFL, need to think carefully before accepting any more sponsorship from gambling companies. Clubs that accept funds should have in place strong codes of conduct that protect junior sport and ban the promotion of gambling products by players and officials. It's good to see sports like the AFL and NRL that currently have strict codes of conduct and are continually working on ensuring the game remains fair. Promotion is a major concern for a number of key stakeholders in sport. The Government should be applauded for taking such a big stance on banning all gambling advertisements within the next year, but must ensure they don’t overstep the line and force gambling on sport into the black markets.

Although this new form of sponsorship has enabled the AFL to prosper into Australia’s top sport, in order to maintain their reputation they may need to downgrade the role gambling agencies play in the sporting landscape.

The government has a duty of care to help. Gambling agencies play a big role in the survival of not just the AFL but also local sporting communities. There needs to be a balanced result with the new reforms to ensure the best outcome is achieved for all.

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