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Is our problem with sports betting or Tom Waterhouse?

Tom Waterhouse famously took big bets on course, but online, things are different (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Roar Rookie
30th March, 2013
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4066 Reads

Tom Waterhouse has been the surprise big name in NRL this week – and unfortunately for him, it’s been for all the wrong reasons.

Subject of a ‘crisis meeting’ between Channel Nine and the NRL, Waterhouse has been unceremoniously stripped of his Channel Nine branded microphone, and a number of other sanctions placed on him to help clarify what is sports news and what is an advertisement for sports betting.

Waterhouse now faces an uphill battle, with the announcement he will have to front a parliamentary enquiry into the spread of gambling into live sports broadcasts.

During the 2012 NRL season, the NRL’s official sports betting partner TAB Sportsbet was fronted by the some-what likeable Glen Munsie and the attractive Jamie Rogers.

Throughout the season Munsie was often seen giving live betting odds and updates pre-match and at half-time of most fixtures, with Rogers providing crosses from the TAB Sportsbet studios.

Sports betting agencies involvement in NRL is nothing new – so why the public outcry now?

What has changed so drastically between September 2012 and March 2013 that has members of the public signing petitions to reduce the involvement sports gambling has in the game and the NRL switching into crisis control mode?

The answer to this appears to be the man himself – Tom Waterhouse.

It’s fair to say many people aren’t big fans of Waterhouse.

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A glance at most social media forums shows many find his constant reference to “Mum’s horses,” his at-times creepy smile and even his love of having a fresh suit for every occasion amongst the public’s main quips.

Which poses the question – had TAB Sportsbet continued as the betting partner of the NRL over Waterhouse, would there be such uproar over sports gambling and sport having such a close knit relationship?

Or had Waterhouse employed the services of a loveable NRL icon such as Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon, Nathan Hindmarsh or Peter Sterling to front his campaigns (keeping that ‘creepy smile’ off the small screen) would the public still have an issue?

While the Tom Waterhouse brand has suffered a massive blow this week – a situation which Waterhouse no doubt never saw coming when he parted ways with a reported $10 million – the public’s issue seems to be concentrated on Waterhouse himself rather than with the other sports betting agencies affiliated with the NRL.

Waterhouse may be all over Channel Nine, however it’s easy to forget Sportsbet are plastered on the back of both the Knights and the Roosters jersey’s, Luxbet have pride of place on bottom of the Sharks jersey and the Panther’s home ground is now named Centrebet Stadium.

As the Waterhouse public relations department switches into damage control mode, one can’t help but wonder that if had Waterhouse taken a more tactful approach to his multi-million dollar sponsorship of the NRL he could have avoided the controversy that’s followed.

While Waterhouse is a credible source of information in the racing industry, and the use of his image and the Waterhouse name works, he surely must have known he can’t just roll out the same marketing in NRL, an industry in which he has no ties to.