Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Experts: live odds like pokies

Anti-gambling groups denounce TAB tactics

TAB bookie Mark Stafford gives up-to-the-minute odds. Photo / Greg Bowker
TAB bookie Mark Stafford gives up-to-the-minute odds. Photo / Greg Bowker

Sports betting laws should be overhauled to curb a growing number of addicts, say anti-gambling campaigners.

The calls come as the NZ Racing Board has pocketed $250 million in revenue from sports betting in the last year.

It's claimed that live odds - where punters can bet on anything from the outcome of a scrum to whether a player will kick or pass - are as addictive as pokie machines.

One recent development is TAB spokesman Mark Stafford appearing before live rugby games to provide up-to-the-minute sports odds.

The TAB offered about 10,000 in-play live-betting options over the past year, and there is no legislation around what type of bets can be offered or how they can be marketed.

Australia has moved to ban television and radio advertising of betting odds during sports matches to push back the invasive methods of competing bookmakers.

Last month, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard demanded TV and radio networks ban the promotion of live odds and restrict gambling ads during the airing of sporting events.

The controversy was sparked by bookmaker Tom Waterhouse, who flooded the airwaves with gambling ads and appeared on the Channel Nine commentary team to spruik betting odds during rugby league matches.

In New Zealand, Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said live odds could be as dangerous to problem gamblers as pokie machines.

"It's not about who's going to win, it's about will this kick go over, will he drop the ball the next time he touches it. The more instant the response to a bet, the more problematic it can become."

He said a growing number of young men were coming to the foundation seeking help for sports gambling problems.

Sports betting is an area of massive growth for the TAB.

NZ Racing Board annual reports show revenue from fixed odds in sports betting has increased from about $100 million in 2004/05 to $250 million in the past financial year.

Labour Party internal affairs spokesman Trevor Mallard said he wanted a review of laws around live odds betting.

"Clearly it's something that gets the adrenalin going and therefore is a risk for problem gambling. It's a combination of the betting and the mode of promoting it."

Racing Minister Nathan Guy said the Government was satisfied existing legislation was sufficient. "However, it's something we do keep a close eye on."

Racing Board media and government relations manager John Mitchell said live odds were only a small fraction of the more than one million betting lines the TAB offered each year.

He said New Zealanders gambled at least $300 million a year with offshore bookmakers.

"They pay no tax, no gambling levies, nothing to the sports foundations. A lot of people forget that the TAB exists fundamentally to support racing and sports in this country," he said.

"We can't compete fairly in that environment because they don't play on the same field. They don't contribute anything to problem gambling.

"When people bet with those offshore providers, the money disappears."


Bets on All Blacks vs France

Head to head, live betting: New Zealand $1.12, France $5.50

First stoppage in play: Lineout/throw in $2.15, scrum $3, penalty $3

First scoring play: New Zealand penalty goal $2.65, France penalty goal $3.10, NZ try $3.25

First place kick at goal: Successful $1.33, unsuccessful (misses) $3.10

First team to score a try: New Zealand $1.28, France $3.40, no try $30

Time of first try: 12.59 mins or before $1.80, 13 mins or after $1.90

* TAB odds, as at Thursday, 4pm

- Herald on Sunday

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