AFL closing in on new $8 million-a-year gambling deal
The AFL is closing in on a monster $8 million-a-year deal with a corporate bookmaker.
The day after Geelong became the latest club to exit the poker machine industry, it emerged the league was deep in negotiations to extend BetEasy's contract as its official gambling partner.
Insiders say the new arrangement will run for three or five years and is likely to be unveiled in the New Year.
BetEasy's most recent five-year deal with the AFL expired this season.
The league has been under pressure to cut ties with the gambling sector.
"If this goes ahead, the AFL will have abandoned their right to moral leadership in the community," Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said.
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"These ads groom our kids to become addicts and exploit their love of their football heroes."
Collingwood young gun Jaidyn Stephenson was suspended for 10 matches this season after being caught betting on matches he was playing in.
"There is a bit of an irony in penalising someone for gambling but then receiving money for it," Magpies coach Nathan Buckley declared of the AFL's relationship with bookmakers in June.
Western Bulldogs defender Easton Wood said this year he was prepared to take a pay cut if it helped league officials wean themselves off gambling revenue.
"I'd happily take less, philosophically if that's what it's going to take to do the right thing and do what's best for the code and kids coming through," Wood said.
Three clubs - Collingwood, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs - have cut ties with pokies this year.
"The clubs have shown leadership and are in step with the community," Costello said.
"What is wrong with the AFL Commission?"
Magpies president Eddie McGuire has floated the extraordinary concept of an "amnesty" for players betting on football.
"It would be like what happens with the drug code," McGuire said.
"Clean it up. Clean it up once and for all, start from scratch and then put in as many punitive penalties as you like after that."
BetEasy, whose former directors included ex-AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, was recently bought out by an international consortium eyeing a merger with the overseas parent company of its Australian rival, Sportsbet.