Bookmaker Tom Waterhouse has failed to appear before the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, chaired by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
Other members of the committee include Senator Kim Carr and Senator Nick Xenophon. Amongst other concerns about the negative effects of gambling, the committee is considering the levels of betting advertising during sporting telecasts.
Mr. Waterhouse’s ‘no show’ was the second time he has failed to attend and particularly infuriating for the participants who had delayed their findings in the hope that his appearance would add to the information on which they will base their conclusions. Senator Nick Xenophon has declared that Mr. Waterhouse has “treated the Parliament … with contempt”. Whilst Mr. Waterhouse could have been compelled to attend, it is believed a combined vote of Liberal and Labor committee members has chosen not to pursue this option. The Independents and Greens members of the committees are disappointed with this outcome. Mr. Wilkie stating:
“(He) could have helped the committee to better understand why the industry thinks it’s okay to bombard viewers with (gambling) advertising at a time of the day when a lot of children are watching TV.”
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On his website, Tom Waterhouse describes himself as a “a leading Online and Sports Betting Bookmaker in Australia’. His bookmaking business is jointly owned with his sister and his father, Robbie, who many will remember from the Fine Cotton ‘ring-in’ affair, which saw Robbie disqualified for life as a bookmaker and warned off racecourses. He has since had his licence reinstated. Tom’s mother, Gai, of course is well known as a highly successful horse trainer and ex-friend of John Singleton since their ‘less than joyous’ falling out a few weeks ago. Racing royalty indeed.
So why would Waterhouse be Public Enemy number one? Well we seem to have a gambling problem in this country. A big one!
As recently as yesterday a Canadian academic was suggesting the dangers of gambling are as serious as alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex when it comes to our young people and they need education to prevent gambling abuse. Ironically it is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, so young Tom couldn’t have picked a better time for his no show, could he?
But on a more serious note, it does seem that many people in the community have severely affected their financial security by over indulging in gambling. Just ask the charities which help them try to get food and housing in the aftermath. A couple of decades ago you needed to get out of the house and go to the races or the TAB to place a bet. You had to make an effort to gather the cash and bouncing cheques weren’t accepted. Now it is seductively easy. You are watching the NRL, the AFL or the soccer and across the screen strolls a beaming Mr. Waterhouse, exhorting you to ‘have a go’.
Maybe it’s one step further and there is young Tom imbedded – yes imbedded – in the commentary panel. Good grief is he an advertiser or a commentator? It’s hard to tell. But what is simple is placing a bet. And you don’t need to have the money – just access to your credit card, which is possibly almost maxed out already. And before you know it you follow young Tom and you’ve placed $1000 on your team and bingo, the second half of the game is underway. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Tom Waterhouse is reputed to have inherited $80 million from his grandfather. Many would use that money to help others. Whilst we can’t expect the impossible, it is tragic that this money seems to be invested in a bigger money-making machine which takes down problem gamblers. Mr. Waterhouse has every right to run his business. But his advertising should be taken off the screens during sports broadcasts, he should not be part of the commentary box, but should take his comments where they belong – to the parliamentary enquiry. Anything less, as Senator Xenophon has remarked, is simply gutless.
What do you think?