Gillard to end in-game gambling promos

JONATHAN SWAN
Last updated 11:59 26/05/2013

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dramatically intervened in the sports betting debate, demanding that TV and radio networks ban the promotion of live odds during sporting matches.

The Prime Minister's intervention comes after months of public anger about the promotion of gambling during televised sport.

The controversy was sparked by the inescapable presence of bookmaker Tom Waterhouse, who has flooded the airwaves with gambling advertisements and appeared on the Channel Nine commentary team to spruik odds during rugby league matches.

Under Labor's demands -which come several weeks after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott flagged a Coalition government would take action against televised betting - all promotion of betting odds on broadcast media would be banned during games.

Under the new rules, gambling advertisements would be prohibited during the commercial breaks while matches are being played. Advertisements of this sort would only be allowed before or after a game; or during a scheduled break in play, such as quarter-time and half-time, the Prime Minister's office confirmed.

"The government will monitor the intensity of generic gambling advertisements within the allowed periods," a spokesman for the Prime Minister said.

"If it is found to go beyond reasonable levels, the government will impose a total advertising ban".

In a rule seemingly tailored for Mr Waterhouse, Ms Gillard said representatives of gambling companies must not appear with the commentary team at any time.

"The public have had enough of odds and betting promotions being shoved down their throats while listening to and watching sport," Ms Gillard said in a statement.

"Younger Australians in particular should continue to talk about which is the best football team... not which team is at the shortest odds to win a game".

Trade Minister Craig Emerson told ABC television on Sunday morning that he did not watch a lot of AFL, but "I see Tom Waterhouse and I see spruikers and I think it is a bad development".

"It is fundamentally destroying Australian viewing on television of sport and the PM is acting," Mr Emerson said. 

Ms Gillard has asked broadcasters to submit a revised code to the industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

If the broadcasting industry does not agree to the ban, the government will fast-track legislation into parliament to enshrine the new rules before the September election.

The bill would pass through parliament without trouble, given the Greens, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, and Mr Abbott, have all publicly stated their opposition to the promotion of live odds during sporting matches. 

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