PM unveils plan to ban live betting odds


Live betting odds will be banned during sports broadcasting in Australia under changes proposed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Ms Gillard said it was good news for Australian families, who were becoming "increasingly frustrated" with the spruiking of live odds on their television screens.

Under the proposal, not only would live odds be banned but crosses to gambling representatives on or near the field would become a thing of the past.

Gambling advertising would also be relegated to designated TV commercial periods.

"From the moment that the players step onto the field, from the moment that they leave the field, there will be no live odds," Ms Gillard told reporters in Sydney.

"This I think is very good news for Australian families."

The government has called on broadcasters to develop a code that meets these guidelines so it can be assessed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

If they fail to do so, Ms Gillard said the government would press ahead and legislate to ensure it happened anyway.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the government had been consulting with the industry for some time but change was needed.

"What today's announcement reflects is that Australians are sick of having gambling, and live odds in particular, rammed down their throats," he said.

"It is not a satisfactory circumstance where kids are looking at newspapers, watching matches, and they're talking about what's the odds on the match."

Senator Conroy said the gaming industry and TV broadcasters had been put on notice, and the government expected a new code meeting their standards to be supplied to the ACMA in a few weeks.

The watchdog would then be charged with overseeing and regulating the code.

Senator Conroy denied the government was playing catch up with the coalition, which proposed legislating a ban on live odds earlier this month.

The government would monitor the intensity of gambling advertisements within the allowed periods, and if it went "beyond reasonable levels" a total ban on betting commercials could be imposed.

Ms Gillard said live odds had been frustrating her personally, and families were concerned about the widespread integration of gambling into sports matches.

"I think it has just got over the top, and so I think people will be relieved to hear this today," she said.

The government considered banning all gambling ads during sports matches but took into account that broadcasters needed to make revenue.

The government had to strike a balance with their proposal between ensuring broadcast revenue and protecting families from gambling.

"We think we've got that balance right," Ms Gillard said.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said the proposal had merit but a blanket ban on gambling advertisements was needed.

Live odds only made up five per cent of all gambling ads in Australia, and families would still be "bombarded" by such ads before, during and after the match, he said.

"That's why the best way to fix this problem is not to have gambling advertising during sporting games," Senator Xenophon told reporters in Adelaide.

The National Rugby League (NRL) said it supported the government's proposal, and didn't want betting seen as the primary focus of the game.

"Fans, and particularly young fans, should not be subject to excessive promotion of betting during matches," NRL chief executive Dave Smith said in a statement.

"We want young kids to be enjoying the skills of their favourite team, not quoting the odds."

He said the Australian Rugby League Commission had already announced that it was reviewing its position in relation to corporate partnerships with betting operators.

The NRL didn't have a major partnership in this area and had no immediate plans to pursue one.

Last week, the NRL announced a multimillion dollar deal with high-profile bookmaker Tom Waterhouse had collapsed but said a public backlash wasn't behind its decision.

Mr Waterhouse had been spruiking live odds on the Nine Network's sports panel but his appearances sparked such an outcry the NRL pulled him from the spot.

The Nine Network still allows him on the football field but he uses his own microphone to give his odds.

Free TV Australia CEO Julie Flynn says the proposed restrictions on broadcasters are unprecedented.

But she accepts the government has acted in response to community concern and says Free TV will submit a revised code within the next two weeks to the ACMA.

"The industry continues to hold the view that regulation in this area should apply consistently to all advertising and content distribution platforms, not just television," she said in a statement.