If I had to trace it back, gambling started for me when I was in primary school and I was invited to participate in the Webeck Family Tipping Comp. I can’t recall whether there were any financial incentives on offer or simply beating my two brothers was reward enough, but it became a fun family activity.
The highlight of my early gambling forays however was without doubt in Year 6 at Tyalla Primary when Mr Donaldson and I finished joint winners of my class, although I’m pretty sure Mr D never coughed up any cash on that occasion.
I was confounded as a teenage cricketer that my adult team-mates would spend the afternoon listening to the results of the fourth at Rosehill rather than paying close attention to what the wicket was doing and my betting activities ever since have been minimalistic at best.
I get cranky if I lose $10 on the pokies and my Melbourne Cup standard bet for more than a decade has been a couple of bets ‘on the nose’ and 10 $1 mystery trifectas (which I am still waiting to pay off).
So to me, betting has always been a bit of fun but my fiscal tightness has thankfully prevented me from getting in too deep.
But there’s no question there has been a dramatic shift towards the proliferation of betting agencies all eager to take our bets and the widespread publicity they receive on just about every sports show on TV, radio or in newspapers and magazines.
In a difficult environment for the media, betting agencies are the ones who are spending, but it now appears the public – and subsequently the government – have deemed they have been over-exposed.
Tom Waterhouse has been the lightning rod for the backlash but that is simply because he stumped up the cash to make his business the most visible in a very competitive market. It’s a position every other betting agency would gladly accept if offered the right deal but Waterhouse’s wide-ranging commercial arrangement with Channel Nine seems to have forced the government’s hand.
Television networks have agreed there will be no promotion of live odds for the duration of the broadcasted sporting contests, with generic ads allowed to be broadcast in half-time breaks of NRL games.
It’s a significant step and one – as a father of a four-year-old starting to show an interest in footy – I personally applaud.
The spectre of sports betting has been indoctrinated in almost every conversation that occurs around a sporting contest – or the winner of Eurovision for that matter – when all most people want is to be able to watch the footy as a family without having to explain why someone is “taking on” our favourite team by offering “over the odds”.
Chalk up another win for people power.
And another thing… Don’t forget from Monday to grab our copy of the official State of Origin Game One program.
Packed with exclusive features, historical retrospectives, records of every Origin game ever played and profiles on all 34 individuals set to do battle, it’s the must-have accompaniment to the greatest rivalry in sport.