by REBECCA SPARROW
Tom Waterhouse keeps coming into my house. I didn’t invite him. I’m sure he’s a perfectly lovely guy but I don’t want him there.
And yet, there he is. Trying to entice me to gamble.
Of course, Tom (and I feel like I can call him Tom since quite often I’m in my jammies when he turns up) … never says ‘gamble’. Filthy word ‘gamble’. No, Tom talks about ‘odds and stats’. Tom talks about me ‘having a punt!’ And he says it in a fun way with that cheeky smile! Have a punt! But you and I both know what ‘have a punt’ means. It’s code for ‘taking your money and flushing it down the toilet.’
I’m sure you’re nice, Tom. You look nice. This is not personal.
But you’re a bookie, Tom. And I don’t want you – the new clean cut, fresh face of gambling – or anyone enticing my family to gamble, in my loungeroom. In fact, you being in my loungeroom several times a week is making me angry and upset.
Gambling is the heart disease of our country. According to the Australian government website ProblemGambling.gov.au, Aussies spent more than $19 billion A YEAR on gambling. The social cost to the community of problem gambling is close to $5 billion a year. Gambling ruins lives. And Australia already has the highest rate of gambling in the world.
Tom, I hate the fact you and others in your profession are trying to normalise it into every single part of sport. I’m old fashioned. I kinda think I should be able to watch sport (or pretend to watch sport while I Google “How old was Scott Baio when he starred in Charles in Charge”) without people trying to entice me to gamble.
I won’t pretend I’m a big rugby league fan. I don’t know my Brett Stewart from my Ricky Stuart.
But that matters little. Like thousands of other Australians – including kids – I live in a household which hums along to the NRL season.
My kids (who are often forced like tiny hostages to support the Paramatta Eels thanks to their father) are now being routinely exposed to gambling propaganda because Tom Waterhouse and ‘taking a punt’ is suddenly part of the deal. Well it has been ever since Mr Waterhouse allegedly did a 5-year $50 m deal with the NRL to be their official gambling partner.
And then there’s the $15m deal with Channel Nine to be part of their live NRL coverage. Which apparently includes being on the commentary team.
One would have thought that Ray Warren and Peter Sterling and Phil Gould were adequate enough to provide commentary being rugby league royalty and all. But nope, now Tom Waterhouse is needed for commentary too. To feed us the ‘stats’ and the ‘odds’ is that right?
Dracula may not have been put in charge of the bloodbank but he’s certainly landed a spot on the management committee.
This smells as bad to me as the cash for comment scandal of 1999.
There’s a deep well of rugby league players that have been revealed to have long standing and severe gambling problems and gambling addictions. We’ve all heard of the Bulldog’s Ben Barba and Ryan Tandy, the Knight’s Owen Craigie and even NRL “good guy” Nathan Hindmarsh who recently admitted to losing hundreds of thousand of dollars on poker machines.
But even the guys in the commentary box — sitting alongside Waterhouse – Gould, Sterling and Warren have all admitted in recent years to letting gambling overtake their lives.
Excessive drinking and excessive gambling are problems for the NRL amongst their players. And yet you now have a situation where rugby league is feeding and perpetuating this culture.
And players aside, what about the fans? The fans who love the game. Fans who are there to cheer on their teams and be part of a roaring crowd (be that at home or on the sidelines)? For several years now NRL fans (and AFL fans and cricket fans) have been the target of a stealth gambling campaign. Suddenly now every minute of the game has an ‘odds’ update. Take the NRL. It started with being able to bet on a win or lose for your team. Now you can bet on the first try scorer. First points from a penalty kick. You get the idea.
So to Tom Waterhouse I say, ‘Kindly leave my loungeroom, sir.”
To TV networks and the NRL, I say, ‘For shame. You’re blithely gambling with the livelihoods of your players and fans.’
Have you seen the Tom Waterhouse gambling ads? Do they concern you?