Gambling with sport's integrity

THE only sure thing in today’s betting-mad world of sport is that those flogging a wager to TV audiences will avoid the word gamble at any cost.

None of the betting agencies urging sports fans to have a flutter on the cricket, the footy or the AFL invite punters to “gamble with me”.

No, the word gambling implies risk, loss and too often addiction, hence problem gamblers are associated with poker machine addiction.

On the contrary, the words used to market gambling to today’s sports fans are carefully chosen for their association with Australians’ love of a sporting chance, a harmless flutter - a bet.

The often destructive side of gambling - sorry betting - is kept as far as possible from the thoughts of sports fans as they are bombarded during game breaks with the changing odds and dividends.

The language is important because it is one more way that gambling - sorry betting - is sold to the sport-loving public.

And that sport-loving audience includes children watching their heroes bat as well as seasoned punters. It is common knowledge and commonsense that children far too young to place a bet are discussing the odds of their team scoring first or NSW squaring up the State of Origin series.

While today’s adults have more opportunities than ever before to place a bet tomorrow’s gamblers - sorry, punters - are being groomed to join in.

If cultivating an enjoyment of gambling creates problems for those who lack the discipline to gamble responsibly it also creates problems or temptations in sport in general.

The cricket world has been rocked before by allegations and cases of match fixing and European soccer is staring down the barrel of something similar but it should be hardly surprising given the stakes and the temptations.

Australia has yet to see a code-wide betting scandal but the proliferation of opportunities to place a bet must increase the odds enormously.

That too is something governments and sporting administrators should gamble on.

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