By Clyde Mooney
The National Rugby League believes that mandatory pre-commitment (MPC) would strike a blow to the financial viability of clubs, from which the game of rugby league would never recover.
The NRL has put its weight behind the anti-reform movement against independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who is determined to reduce problem gambling and is holding his support for the Gillard Labor government ransom until it happens.
A new campaign targeting footy fans will screen on the big screen at games for the remainder of the season as well as at key locations for the 2011 State of Origin final on Wednesday night.
The campaign will feature former Bulldogs and State of Origin captain Steve ‘Turvey’ Mortimer and is expected to reach more than 1.5 million fans, many of whom would have a strong link to some form of social club or licensed venue.
The advertisements highlight what rugby league and its fans and future players stand to lose if the venues are forced to spend millions on MPC.
As well as the $25 million leagues clubs in NSW, ACT and Queensland currently put into NRL teams in the Telstra premiership each year, the $15 million that is poured into junior football will be sorely missed.
“Last year, clubs ran 1,130 junior rugby league clubs, and donated $40m to help fund the purchase of football jumpers, shorts, socks, trophies, insurance, medical kits, referee outfits and ground development,” says NRL CEO David Gallop.
“There are any number of gambling options in the community but none of which contribute to the community in the way that the club movement does.
”Our concern is that these measures will not prevent problem gambling but that it will severely damage rugby league and other community sports.”
Many organisations and individuals have called for a common-sense approach to the introduction of MPC, after the Joint Select Committee recommended that MPC be first trialled in a cost-benefit analysis.
Clubs Australia has compiled estimates of the cost of implementation of MPC in major leagues clubs, with figures ranging from $1.5 million for the Illawarra Steelers, to $10.65 million for the giant Penrith Panthers venue.
“There is no legislation passed yet, these figures are estimates based on the size of the club and its machines considering the proposed reforms,” Carissa Simons of Clubs NSW told TheShout:
”Machines over five years old will likely need to be replaced, and those younger than that will still require software and hardware upgrades to facilitate the technology.”
The introduction of a national pre-commitment card to allow individuals to be monitored and banned from all machines in the country simultaneously will also require a national infrastructure and network.