AFL considers shake-up of gambling partnership

The Australian Football League (AFL), the top division of Aussie rules in the country, is reported to be considering reviewing its partnership with gambling company Tapcorp, with fellow operators BetEasy and William Hill Australia said to be interested in bidding for the contract.

According to the Age newspaper, Tabcorp’s exclusive four-year wagering deal with the AFL ends later this year and the league is said to be considering spreading its front-line arrangement.

Bookmaker William Hill’s Australian business, led by new chief executive Tom Waterhouse, and BetEasy, a new betting company set up by former Sportsbet chief executive Matthew Tripp, are both expected to be in the market for the deal that is worth a reported seven-figure sum.

“I am told the AFL is looking to restructure [the partnership] whereby it won’t be inclusive to one particular betting operator,” Tripp said. “There will be several allowed to put their hand up and be part of that mix.

“I will certainly be one of them that will be putting my hand up. Providing the commercial terms are reasonable, I will throw my hat in the ring for sure.”

The Tabcorp deal was the first exclusive wagering partnership brokered by the AFL.

Craig Nugent, Tabcorp’s wagering chief operating officer, said despite other operators being linked with bids, he is keen to extend the deal.

“TAB has been an AFL partner since 2006 and, as Australia’s most trusted wagering brand, we’ve been a good partner for the AFL,” Nugent said.

“On that basis we’ll be looking at extending the partnership for 2015 and beyond,” he said.

Under the current deal with the AFL, Tabcorp has ‘last rights’ to all media deals the league secures, including any potential contracts in which a television or radio network is seeking a betting partner.

BetEasy founder Tripp said that the AFL contract is ‘critical’ to the business and a deal it is ‘really interested in’.

“The AFL is the biggest sports betting market at the moment outside, obviously, of the three racing codes,” Tripp said.

“It is critical to our business. It is something that we are really interested in, particularly being an effective start-up.

“We would need something like an injection of AFL punters and who better to run with than a network like (Australian broadcasters) Seven or Fox or whoever it may be, in order to make that happen.”

Tabcorp’s deal with the AFL also includes finals and the Brownlow Medal, while it also agreed a deal with the league earlier this month to stream live matches on its website to customers via its smartphone and tablet applications for the rest of the season

AFL spokesman James Tonkin said: “Tabcorp has been a valued long-term partner of the AFL and we are commencing renewal discussions with them.”

Under AFL integrity protocols, other approved bookmakers are required to report suspicious betting transactions to the AFL, while the league maintains regular contact with major bookmakers to discuss and monitor betting trends.

The AFL maintains detailed checks to ensure players and officials do not bet on matches while it can also veto certain types of bets to help protect the game’s integrity.

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