Australia news May 27, 2013

Australia to limit betting ads in sports

The Australian government has decided to cut down gambling advertisements and the broadcasting of live odds during television coverage of all sports, including cricket, in response to the blurring line between commentators and bookmakers. Betting is legal in Australia and the move will be seen with interest in India, where there is a feeling that legalising betting will decrease the influence of criminals in the industry.

The prime minister, Julia Gillard, on Sunday announced that the federal government would demand changes to the broadcasting codes that would limit advertisements for betting companies and the updating of odds from betting companies or commentators to scheduled breaks in play.

For Australia's football codes that would mean such promotions could only be shown at breaks such as quarter-time or half-time, while during cricket coverage it would likely refer to changes of innings and lunch and tea breaks. Any representative of a gambling company providing updates during such breaks will not be able to do so from the venue and will not be able to appear with the commentary team.

The Gillard government's move is largely the result of in-play betting updates during coverage of football codes, especially the National Rugby League. This year, a hefty sponsorship deal allowed bookmaker Tom Waterhouse to appear alongside Channel Nine commentators during their coverage of NRL matches, which prompted a public backlash amid concerns over the growing move to the mainstream of sports gambling.

The NRL and Channel Nine altered Waterhouse's role several weeks into the season as a result of the public reaction to the increasingly blurred line between commentator and bookmaker. Although the prevalence of betting information during cricket coverage had not reached that stage, Cricket Australia's CEO James Sutherland indicated in February that CA would consider what was and was not appropriate, and had already spoken to Channel Nine about the way such updates from sponsor Bet365 were presented.

Sutherland's comments at the time came shortly after the release of the Australian Crime Commission's report into links between performance-enhancing drug use, organised crime and possible betting corruption in sport in Australia. Although cricket was not implicated in any way, the report highlighted the need for vigilance from all sports.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here