Australia gambles the most $ on sport per capita in the world.
Online sports punters in this country lost $264 million in 2006. This year it will be $611million.
$300 million is bet on the AFL alone. This figure is increasing; at approximately the same rate as Andrew Demetriou’s ego…
Not only is a great deal of our time, focus and energy going into the world of sport, but our hard earner dollars are heading there as well; more so than any other nation on God’s green earth, it seems.
The Brownlow Medal
Last year, I settled in to watch the AFL Brownlow Medal (player of the year) with some mates. It’s an event where you can get odds on the winning player before the ball has even been bounced in Round 1, 6 months earlier.
As we watched, every ad break contained a cross to a betting agency providing live odds. I felt bad for those people for whom gambling is an addiction. No longer is it enough just to avoid the venues where sport is played or the local TAB. Now, all you need is a tv and/or an internet link.
Fortunately, in May, betting agencies and television networks were given 12 months by the Australian government to stop broadcasting updated betting odds during live broadcasts of sporting events, or risk having legislation brought in to ban it. Yet how much damage has already been done?
‘Falling marriage rates hurting children: report’
This topic has come to light today for me because front page news yet again proclaims another betting ‘scandal’ – the second I’ve seen in as many days and about the 5th or so I’ve been aware of this year; and that’s without me actively following sport.
In order to write this and make sure I got my facts right, I clicked away from a story on a report regarding the damage to children done due to our increasingly fragmented family unit. (Surely this isn’t ground-breaking news for anyone. You don’t need to work in education for 10 years to know the personal and greater stories of the intense damage done by individuals inabilities to commit over the long term and work through the issues that are going to arise in married life; regardless of who you are. But still, I wanted some specific details and figures. Big red herring – sorry…)
Determined, I clicked onto this other big story, where apparently some ‘inside news’ saw the current coach of St Kilda firm heavily as the coach of Melbourne next year. How did this happen? Investigations will take place. Earlier this week it came to light that a lot of money came in for Nathan Bock, a backline player for the Gold Coast Suns, to kick the first goal of the game. And yes, you can bet on this.
Last week it was an assistant coach who placed a bet ‘on behalf of a friend’ on an AFL game. Although it wasn’t a game his team was involved in, his career may be in jeopardy. Earlier this year, Collingwood player Heath Shaw was fined $20,000 and suspended 8 weeks for using inside information to bet that his captain, Nick Maxwell, a regular in the backline, would kick the first goal. For his part in passing on the information, Maxwell was fined $10,000 after it came out that three of his family members placed similar bets. For the record, the total sum of Shaw’s bet … $10.
Fortunately, I was on my sporting ban by the time of these occurrences. I can only imagine it would have been ‘major news’. (So I had to do post-dated research for this piece. Googling ‘Dangers of betting on sports in Australia’ simply brought up a host of online betting sites!)
Having never had a betting account, I don’t have too much experience to draw upon, though I have placed bets before, some of them for not insignificant amounts. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. I won the few relatively big bets I made and then stopped myself as I realised the alluring obsession that was at my fingertips. It is compelling. But at some stage, there’ll be a ‘sure thing’ that doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. What will I do then??
I’ve even scaled back my involvement in a fantasy AFL betting competition that I’m in. To step away completely would remove myself from a fun connection with a group of mates. (An ironic aside – I have, for the last 2 days, been in the lead in this comp. This will not last. For all my knowledge about this sport, I have never ended the season with more $ than what I began with; a helpful internal warning for any real-life betting behaviour that beckons!)
Don’t kid yourself
There are many arguments made about why AFL (or whichever sport is your first love) is oblivious to the factors which permeate the hearts and minds of players worldwide, causing them to try to cash in the potential to leverage a particular outcome – ‘One player can only make so much of a difference in a game with 36 people on the field’, ‘They would be ostracised by the community and their peers if it ever came out,’ ‘It just wouldn’t happen in Australia.’ For those Melbournians making the same arguments about (London) riots, you only have to look to Cronulla.
There is an undeniable possibility to severely mess with the integrity of a game or an outcome. Money is to be made from this. It. Will. Happen.
While the recent betting incidents may seem insignificant in light of their amounts, it does point towards the temptation that betting poses to many. For well-paid footballers, there’s obviously still a rush in ‘being in the know’ and winning a few dollars; yet the lure of match-fixing can never be too far away.
For the average schmo, you can be fooled into thinking you have the inside track on something, that the odds makers have ‘got it wrong’ and you can make a killing. Unfortunately, too many are getting involved, and they’re betting more than $10. Incomes can be lost. Relationships damaged; permanently.
For others, it simply provides a distraction. Neither the dollar amounts nor the regularity are in and of themselves an issue. The constant, mental energy expended on pointless number-crunching and analysis, however, takes time away from what is important – family, friends, faith, community, health and fitness…
Now, back to that report on kids and families.