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SBD Global/March 28, 2013/Media

National Rugby League Says $50M Deal With Bookmaker Is 'Exaggerated,' Talks Continuing

The National Rugby League has described reports of a A$50M ($52M) deal for controversial bookmaker Tom Waterhouse to be rugby league's betting partner "exaggerated," according to the AAP. The game's governing body said that "it has yet to reach an agreement with Waterhouse, though talks are continuing." But reports of a A$50M deal over five years, split between the NRL and broadcaster Channel Nine, "are pure speculation." Waterhouse's controversial appearances on Channel Nine during rugby league broadcasts this year "were the subject of questioning at a senate committee hearing in Sydney on Wednesday." NRL GM of Strategic Projects Shane Mattiske, asked by Committee Chair Andrew Wilkie about the reported A$50M deal, said: "I am suggesting the numbers floating around the market are exaggerated. You are speculating on the number. I am indicating to you the number is not correct." Asked by committee member Senator Nick Xenophon whether there was a conflict of interest in the NRL negotiating a deal with a bookie while attempting to regulate gambling on league, Mattiske said: "The integrity of the competition is our outmost priority for the game. We would not allow any arrangement to threaten that" (AAP, 3/27).

GREY AREA: In Sydney, Aston & Ralston wrote Waterhouse has been stripped of his commentary role as Channel Nine and the NRL "seek to counter a growing backlash against the infiltration of gambling into live sport and its effects on children." Execs from both organizations have conceded the line between bookmaker and commentator had been "blurred" as a result of Waterhouse's big money sponsorship of Channel Nine. The joint parliamentary committee on gambling reform was told that "he had been stripped of his Channel Nine microphone." He will no longer be seen in the same frame as other commentators and "will be restricted to talking about odds rather than giving his assessment of play" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/28). Mattiske said, "What you'll see in the most recent round, and moving forward, is a clear separation when someone is talking about sports odds and when the commentary team is talking about the match itself" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/28).

WITHOUT A TRACE: In Sydney, Dean Ritchie wrote the 30-year-old bookie, son of racing royalty Gai and Robbie Waterhouse, "was nowhere to be seen, with NRL and Nine executives fronting the committee" on Wednesday. Senator Richard Di Natale said, "People watching footy with their kids don't want to see Tom Waterhouse ads rammed down their throats, and see pseudo commentators giving odds. People are very, very angry at this sport being enmeshed with gambling" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/28).
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