Posted 1/22/11 : Australian operator weighs in against industry detractors
There's more than a little truth in a strong attack on internet gambling critics launched by Australian online gambling group Centrebet this week.
The company reacted to the perhaps predictable anti-gambling lobby backlash to an earlier announcement that it was to become the stadium name sponsor for the Penrith Panthers.
The 5 year deal, worth A$1.5 million according to Aussie media reports, made the rugby football club the first in Australia to take on the brand of an online gambling company.
It immediately provoked criticism by veteran anti-gambling campaigner and independent politician Senator Nick Xenophon, who lashed out at the club.
That triggered a heated response from Centrebet spokesman Neil Evans, who commented: ”The ‘anti brigade' are becoming like cracked records. Why don't they survey the blokes walking into the ground, down at the shopping mall, on the building sites, and in the pubs and see what they think?
”My attitude is … reality is reality. And business is business. I congratulate the Panthers board and the Penrith City Council on their forthrightness and strong-minded stance. Most clubs, especially those hardly flush with cash, would dream about a five-year ground deal worth around $1.5 million, and that's before we start talking about the spin-off effects for the community and all the hard-working people in and around the club.”
The federal government's Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib, did not appear to feel the Panthers agreement was a matter for concern, either.
”Sponsorship of sporting codes and stadiums is a matter for the individual stadium owners and sporting organisations,” Arbib said. ”The NRL have advised the government that the sponsorship agreement between the Panthers and Centrebet meets its own gambling and sponsorship guidelines."
More interestingly, the Minister hinted at future online gambling regulatory moves, saying: ”The select council on gambling reform led by Minister Macklin has put the regulation of online gambling in their forward work agenda. And as sports minister I'm working with the sporting codes, including the NRL, on the issue of match-fixing and integrity in sport.”
The federal government has so far rejected recommendations by its Productivity Committee that internet gambling be regulated instead of banned in Australia.
Centrebet has sponsorships with four other clubs in the NRL, and has signed up to integrity agreements with its partners.
The chief executive of the Penrith Panthers, Michael Leary, had the last word: ”Centrebet has been a responsible corporate partner of the Panthers since coming on board with the club in 2010. Our stadium has become a centre of excellence by not only hosting high-level rugby league in the national competition but through its ability to be community-centric in accommodating several community organisations.”