Monday, May 27, 2013

Tommy can you hear me?

It seems like every other story about Australian sport these days involves gambling.  That's because there are big changes coming involving betting in this country.  They call gamblers "punters" here which makes me laugh every time I hear it.  But I've thought the attitude towards gambling was weird since I got here.  For example, I'm watching the Australian Open, tennis for Pete's sake, and part of the commentary cuts to the current odds just like it was someone commenting on the health of an athlete.  Huh?

Gambling is apparently a big part of Aussie culture and history.  They even let anyone gamble freely on ANZAC day in what they call two-up.  It's a traditional game involving coins that diggers (soldiers) used to play to pass the time.  So, they honor this tradition by letting you gamble every ANZAC day without regulation.  It's not hard to see why they have let gambling creep into every aspect of their sports.

Every newspaper includes a TAB racing form in the middle of the paper you can pull out and check all information needed to place bets.  Horse racing, rugby, cricket, AFL, you name it, they have the odds.

When watching a game on TV it is hard to distinguish the normal commentary and the gambling commentary.  The only difference is that Tom Waterhouse is giving you the information and his microphone is advertising his betting website.  This is only after he was required to leave the main desk and not use a Channel 9 mic.  So try to picture this with me:  You are watching an NFL game and when they cut to the halftime show there is a guy from Vegas sitting on the panel also talking about how the play is affecting the betting odds.  Can you imagine?  How could a kid tell the difference?  Well, the point is, they can't.   Tom Waterhouse has become a star and kids even ask for his autograph at footy games.  A bookie is giving autographs to kids.  What an example!

Tom giving the rugby odds. He is everywhere...

Now government is finally stepping in and beginning the process to ban live odds updates from the airwaves.  The South Australian government has voiced its intent to ban live odds during sporting telecasts and at grounds to try to curb the growing problem it is having on their society.  But the problem is not easily fixed as the main sports leagues are used to the money they get from the bookies and sports bets.  How do they juggle big money and the welfare of their fans?

Aussies have been betting on sports freely for a long, long time and no one seemed to have a problem with it.  So what has changed?

I think the problem stems from the popularity and celebrity of Tom Waterhouse.  As far as I can tell, bookies have been chugging along taking bets from punters for a long time without anyone caring.  Then good-looking Tom comes along and decides he needs to be on TV. It's all about marketing himself.  He is on the front page of his website.  He has a YouTube channel. He is in every commercial. You might even think it's a fashion commercial if you weren't listening closely.  I mean, "he knows what punters want".  He was seen drinking a latte in Surry Hills.  His wife is so pretty.  They were seen at a party at Icebergs in Bondi... So now it's in your face but you don't think anything of it.  Until your kid is asked what he wants to be when he grows up and he plainly states, "a bookie, just like Tom."  Uh oh.  That's not what you wanted to hear.  We should do something about this.

Check these ads out and tell me what you think.

His family has a long history of bookies including his father, Robbie, and grandfather, Bill.

He gives breaks on his (horse trainer) mom's picks.  Cause that seems totally legit. 

This is an actual news broadcast.

So, here we are.  Recently, Tom has been taking it from all sides.  He was involved in a major scandal here with his mother, a horse trainer (cause that's not a conflict of interest) and the owner of a horse that said that Tom had leaked information about a horse prior to a race.  It was a really big deal in the news here and fun to read about.  But when all is said and done the people that make the money still want to keep making the money so they tell all involved, "you did some bad things.  Don't do it again," slap them on the wrist and everyone goes about their merry way.  Meanwhile, the average punter is losing their shirts, homes, families and seriously needs help with their developing gambling problem.

Tom Waterhouse with his horse trainer mother, Gai
(photo by

It will be interesting to see how Australia deals with this growing problem.  I bet (pun intended) that other bookies are really ticked off at Tom right now.  I think it will result in a crackdown on bookmakers and public TV.  Not to mention if this finally starts the conversation that alcohol might not be the only addiction problem in Australia.

Lord knows the next time I watch an NFL game I will think about how glad I am that I have to get on the Internet to find out the over/under.  Because I still want to know and yet I never bet.  How weird is that?

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