Betfair ads criticised

Two Australian public figures - a charity campaigner and a politician - have lashed out at online betting exchange Betfair for advertising on Boxing Day on grounds that the material impinged on family interest subjects like cricket and were therefore dangerous to children and teenagers.

The two criticised the Nine Network for permitting the advertising during a cricket test match against South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

World Vision charity head Tim Costello and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon told The Australian that they were shocked to see Betfair's strong presence on advertising billboards at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Possibly displaying more emotion than attention to fact, Costello, who was at the MCG yesterday, said he was "very worried" about the potential for children who viewed the Betfair advertising to go home and gamble online without their parents' knowledge.

"You've got families and kids here," Costello said. "Of course gambling is part of life, but I think when it's a family cultural event like the Boxing Day Test, the advertising is inappropriate."

He said he was particularly concerned at the way commentator Richie Benaud had quoted Betfair's odds during his commentary, broadcast live around the nation on the Nine Network.

"The truth is we know that gambling addiction breaks up families, causes crime and comes at a huge social cost," Costello said. "When it's a family event like the cricket, when it's being broadcast live and kids are listening to it, it is overstepping the mark. It's inappropriate certainly for kids at a family event."

Senator Xenophon, who was elected as a South Australian senator at the last federal poll largely on an anti-gambling platform, described the online gambling world as the "wild west" and called on the Rudd Government to impose regulations on the broadcasters.

"Online gambling such as Betfair has the potential to deliver the next wave of problem gamblers," he told The Australian. "There's very little regulation in relation to advertising. Gambling advertising ought to carry with it warnings, and we ought to be looking at restrictions similar to those that apply to cigarettes and alcohol.

"It's a shame for the great game of cricket that it's been reduced to just another event to have a punt on," Senator Xenophon said. "It diminishes the great game of cricket."

Senator Xenophon added that he had concerns that online betting on sporting matches could expose sports to corruption and match-fixing.

A spokesman for Betfair declined to respond to the criticisms made by Costello and Xenophon, but The Australian points out that the betting exchange has strongly argued in the past that it has safeguards in place to guard against corruption. Just last week, Betfair tipped off the Australian Football Federation that Socceroos Kevin Muscat and Craig Moore, as well as Melbourne Victory midfielder Grant Brebner, had bet on soccer matches in breach of regulations.

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