There’s never any shortage of hype surrounding the Bombers. As one of the biggest and most powerful clubs in Melbourne, they always receive plenty of attention.
Lately, everyone’s talking about gambling in sport. Live odds, sponsorship, stadium naming rights, exotic bets, relentless advertising… it’s in the news, on TV and radio, they’re even arguing about it in Canberra.
Love it or hate it, there’s the real potential for trouble when betting companies sink their hooks into the teams we follow and begin the media coverage that goes with it.
But what about footy tipping? If there was ever a national Australian gambling pastime, this is it. Forget two-up, forget the annual flutter on the Melbourne Cup. As far as being part of the national identity, footy tipping stands alone.
Even now, with the recent upsurge in popularity of fantasy football, there’s still a place for the tipping competition in our homes, our workplaces, our sporting clubs.
Me? I love footy tipping. Kick in your $10 or $20 at the start of the season and you’ve got months of banter and friendly competition to look forward to.
It doesn’t even matter if you don’t follow AFL or NRL. Some of the best tipsters I’ve known have had absolutely no clue about the game. That’s the beauty of it; it’s a great leveller and brings people together who would otherwise have nothing in common.
Sadly, the betting companies have noticed this. In the last year or so there’s been an explosion in ‘free’ tipping competitions with huge prizes from the likes of Sportsbet and Centrebet.
Costs you nothing, they say. Thousands of dollars in prizes, compete against your friends, have a ball. They’ve even enlisted household sporting names such as Shane Crawford and Trent Barrett to help flog the message.
Problem is, they have an ulterior motive. Don’t they always? These tipping competitions aren’t being run just for fun; the goal is to get people to open betting accounts, especially people who wouldn’t normally be interested in online sports betting.
Because once you’re on their books, accessing their websites to place your tips, they can swamp you with offers and odds until you decide, just maybe, to try having a punt.
Think I’m overstating the situation? Let’s take a look at four tipping competitions currently being offered by betting companies in Australia.
Sportsbet run the Million Dollar Tipping competition; that’s the one with Crawford and Barrett doing the promotion. It’s a standard tipping comp where you pick the winners for each round, and score a point for each tip you get right. The top prize is $200,000 in both the AFL and NRL competitions.
You can’t enter Million Dollar Tipping without opening a full betting account with Sportsbet. Most other betting agencies have tipping memberships, but not Sportsbet. No account, no play.
When you enter your tips, the Sportbet website displays the appropriate odds for your selection and gives you the opportunity to place a multi-bet based on your tips.
And if you tip all the winners in any given round? Your prize is a $50 free bet with Sportsbet.
As the official betting agency of both the AFL and the NRL, TAB Sportsbet are understandably a little careful with their tactics.
You can join their tipping competitions with a tipping membership; there’s no need to open a betting account to play. TAB Sportsbet also offer a standard tipping competition, but instead of a point for each correct tip, you score points based on the odds of your tips winning. The odds are ‘helpfully’ displayed for every game.
The top prize for both the AFL and NRL competitions is $25,000 and a corporate box at the grand final, with the opportunity to increase the payout to $250,000.
Apart from educating tipsters in the way odds work (which is the goal of this competition), the major catch is the provision of prizes at the end of the season. The top ten tipsters get cash prizes, while the prizes for 11th to 50th place are $100 TAB Sportsbet vouchers.
Centrebet run a PYOL (‘pick your own line’) tipping competition. Their offering is similar to TAB Sportsbet, in as much as you accumulate points depending on the odds of your selections.
The difference is that you also pick your own line for each game. This changes the odds, which in turn changes the number of points you stand to win. Again, this is a thinly disguised attempt to teach people how to gamble on sport.
The top prize for the AFL and NRL Centrebet competitions is a $15,000 overseas sporting trip.
While you don’t need a Centrebet betting account to play, you do need one if you’re interested in winning any of the prizes.
All of the weekly prizes are in the form of bonus bets; you cannot claim a weekly prize without a Centrebet account. And without an account, you are also ineligible for the main prize (the overseas trip).
Betstar’s Hot Streak tipping competition is a little different. The one competition covers AFL, NRL and Super Rugby, and the aim is to get the most consecutive correct tips (the hot streak). You can tip on one game per round or all of them; it’s up to you.
There are monthly prizes of Apple products, and the overall prize is a sports tour package and $10,000 cash. There are also bonus monthly prizes and a bonus overall prize of $100,000.
While you don’t need a Betstar account to take part in their tipping competition, you do need an account to claim bonus prizes. The monthly bonus prizes are $500 free bets with Betstar, and cannot be claimed without an active account.
The ‘active’ part is the second catch. It isn’t enough to simply open a Betstar account and not use it; you must have placed at least three separate bets with Betstar to be eligible for a bonus prize. Same goes for the overall bonus prize; without an active account, you can’t win it.
The trend is pretty obvious. All four of these betting agencies, under the auspices of offering free tipping competitions, are giving away betting vouchers or bonus bets that can only be used with them. In most cases you need to open a full account to claim prizes, or in some cases even to take part.
Now, I know there are a lot of sports fans out there who love to bet on the game, and wouldn’t be fazed by any of this. But these fans are not the ones these companies are targeting. It is a sneaky, underhanded grab for the wallets of those who normally wouldn’t consider betting on sport, and that’s a problem.
My advice? If you’re not a sports gambler and you’re looking for an online tipping competition, ignore the hype and glamour of the betting companies and consider Roar Tipping (of course!) or footytips.com.au. The prizes may not be as enormous, but then again, that’s not what footy tipping is all about.