How Australia responds to surge in sports betting

Tens of millions of dollars in gambling revenue collected by the Australian state of Victoria will be pumped into cricket, rugby, tennis, golf and soccer under a State Government plan which appears set to get the go-ahead soon. According to Russell Skelton of the Sunday Age an "in principle" deal has been struck to give the sports a share of the massive A$1.6 billion legally wagered on sport each year.

Some of the money will be used to protect the integrity of sport from corruption driven by a boom in sports gambling.

It is believed a meeting of Victoria's gaming authorities and sporting representatives in Sydney agreed that the organisations that administered sports should receive a share of the money bet on their sports. But they are yet to agree on how this should be done.

"The Sunday Age understands that, in a breakthrough, NSW (the next biggest gambling state after Victoria) and the Northern Territory (home to a number of big corporate gaming players) agreed to back the plan. Other states, including Tasmania, have agreed to a national approach but have concerns about how the plan would be implemented," the newspaper stated.

The Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS) has been lobbying the states for a share of the gambling dollar with the firm backing of Victoria, which has already agreed to hand over a share of betting returns. COMPS represents Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, PGA Tour of Australasia, Football Federation Australia, the National Rugby League and the Australian Rugby Union. The AFL, whose games attract massive gambling interest, is not a member of COMPS because of its arrangements with maverick betting outfit Betfair.

The changes have been prompted by an explosion in money gambled on sports in Australia, from $100 million in 1994, the first year of legal sports betting, to $1.6 billion in 2004. Rugby league, AFL and soccer are the biggest drawcards, with close to $600 million being wagered on rugby league and AFL.

A delegate at the meeting said the growth of sports betting had placed enormous pressure on sports. "If you have a situation where people can gamble on losers as well as winners or on what score some player might make in a match, the temptations are always there. We have to ensure that corrupt behaviour does not happen and, more importantly, be able to investigate thoroughly when it does."