Bookmaker Tom Waterhouse. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
LEVIATHAN bookmaker Tom Waterhouse has blown his competitors out of the water to become the new gambling partner of the NRL in a deal worth close to $50 million.
Fairfax Media understands Waterhouse paid many times the existing partnership deal held by TAB Sportsbet, such was his desire to partner with rugby league. He is expected to make a similar play for the partnership rights to the AFL when they fall due in two years. They are also held by TAB Sportsbet.
Waterhouse could not be contacted to confirm the deal but it was the talk of the gambling world on Monday. However the NRL remained coy on what windfall it would receive.
''At this stage, we haven't made any announcements in relation to betting next season but it's an area in which we've had a relationship [with bookmaker Tom Waterhouse] for some time,'' NRL media manager John Brady said. ''We're still finalising any announcements we've got in relation to that.''
Waterhouse was already an approved betting partner of the NRL as well as the AFL, Tennis Australia, ARU and Cricket Australia. But this deal takes his partnership with the NRL to the next level.
Waterhouse has been a major player in the advertising market with his company spend estimated to be more than $20 million a year.
Fairfax Media also understands Waterhouse has signed a separate deal with Channel Nine worth $15 million for one year to hold exclusivity over both the NRL and AFL Footy Shows, as well as rugby league match broadcasts. He will become the face of the controversial betting spot during Friday football, State Of Origin and Tests.
The combined value of the deals is believed to be $62 million.
Centrebet, which was the gaming sponsor for both Footy Shows, simply could not compete with Waterhouse's offer.
While Waterhouse wants a multi-year deal, Fairfax Media understands he took a 12-month deal and hopes to extend it to other sports, including racing and cricket.
He will be competing with newcomer to the Australian market, Bet365, for the cricket deal, which is particularly attractive with the double Ashes series the lengthy centrepiece of next season.
Waterhouse and the NRL had been in negotiations for the past couple of months but gambling insiders insist it is a done deal. The TAB has been a long-standing sponsor of the NRL and the league's deal with Waterhouse has brought that association to an end.
''Our sponsorship with the NRL has ended but we will continue to an approved gaming partner,'' TAB Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie said.
A number of NRL clubs hold existing agreement with bookmakers, including Brisbane, North Queensland and Manly, while Penrith has a stadium deal with Centrebet. It is unclear whether the NRL deal with Waterhouse will have any effect on these deals.
Waterhouse is continuing the tradition of high-profile bookmaking in his family and is a fourth generation bookmaker.
He is based in Melbourne but commutes from Sydney every week to run his business.
However it is understood the business is likely to relocated to Sydney this year.