Three of Australia’s biggest gambling companies are offering bets on international cricket matches involving underage players, prompting outrage from the country’s child protection watchdog.
- The National Children’s Commissioner is calling for a ban on gambling on sporting events involving underage participants
- There is no suggestion that any players have been involved in match fixing
- Cricket Australia says it cannot control what betting markets are offered on events played overseas
ABC Investigations has discovered Sportsbet, TAB and bet365 have been offering bets on this month’s inaugural Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa, including last Wednesday’s match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Benoni.
Almost half of the Australian players were aged under 18, including 15-year-old Maggie Clark and 16-year-old Lucy Hamilton.
All but three of the 11 players on Sri Lanka’s team were aged under 18.
National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds said the betting was an exploitation of children and called for laws banning gambling on sporting events featuring minors.
“Clearly, kids are being exploited for profit,” she said.
“Young people are basically being used for profit by these online gambling businesses. They are businesses making a profit on our kids.”
Sportsbet declined a request for an interview. However, in a statement, it said it “works hard to ensure we comply with all relevant regulatory and legal requirements”.
“Sportsbet does not provide betting markets for under 18s of age competitions or events.”
TAB and bet365, which is a Cricket Australia sponsor, did not respond to requests for comment.
A parent of one of the players told the ABC she was concerned to learn the tournament was being bet on.
“They’re not racehorses … she’s not a greyhound,” the parent said. “It’s kids’ sports.
“I’d hate it if the motivation behind holding tournaments was because of the money from gambling rather than for the sport.”
Since early this week, Sportsbet and TAB have been offering pre-match odds on the outcome of the Australia-Sri Lanka match, as well as several other matches in the tournament, including Bangladesh v USA, India v Scotland and South Africa v United Arab Emirates.
In-play betting raises risk of integrity issues, specialist says
In-play betting — which allows customers to gamble on a match after it has started — is illegal for Australian-domiciled bookmakers.
However, bet365’s international sites continued to offer a variety of in-play bets on the Australia-Sri Lanka match after it began, including on the number of runs in individual overs and the timing of wickets.
University of Canberra sports integrity specialist Catherine Ordway said that in-play betting presented particularly acute hazards in fixtures being played by children.
“The combination of in-play betting and young people raises red flags immediately,” she said.
“We’ve seen grooming techniques used by match-fixers who target vulnerable people and try to convince them to throw matches or drop points to deliver a gambling benefit.”
There is no suggestion that any players in the tournament have been involved in match fixing.
Dr Ordway said young athletes were particularly vulnerable to approaches from match-fixers on social media.
“Young players often don’t have the knowledge or life experience to appreciate that what might seem like an innocent compliment on social media might be part of a bigger plan to start grooming them for match fixing,” she said.
“In Australia, we have very robust integrity training, but we don’t know whether that education has been specifically targeted to young people or they’re just getting the same training that has been rolled out for senior players.”
Cricket Australia declined a request for an interview. However, in a statement, said it adhered to government guidelines on betting sponsorship, and it conducted anti-corruption education for all pathway programs, including the Australian under-19 women’s team.
“While we cannot control what betting markets are offered on events played abroad, we acknowledge the valid concerns that have been raised and welcome any conversation that may improve our own frameworks to further ensure our young athletes are protected,” it said.
Australia’s gambling industry is regulated by a patchwork of state and territory laws, regulations and codes, none of which prohibit gambling on underage sporting events.
Anne Hollonds said she wanted governments to introduce laws stopping gambling companies offering bets on events featuring children.
“I think a lot of people would be shocked to hear that there appears to be poor … regulation to stop gambling on the outcomes of games involving kids,” she said.
“There is the potential risk that this sort of activity could really mess with these kids’ minds at that young, vulnerable age. There is a moral issue of protecting the safety and the rights and the wellbeing of kids here.”