The Australian Government entity responsible for sport is working on a fundraising opportunity, described as a raffle, to be administered by betting agency Tabcorp.
- The National Community Sport and Charity Raffle would raise funds for local volunteer-run sporting clubs
- Tabcorp, a $3.8 billion gambling empire, would administer the raffle
- Australian Olympic Committee and Swimming Victoria are among bodies that have voiced concerns
Sport Australia has been encouraging national sports organisations to find alternative sources of revenue to government funding.
But the early reaction to the Tabcorp raffle plan from several high- and low-profile national sports bodies contacted by the ABC on the condition of anonymity was unanimously one of "concern".
Originally the Government was considering a national sports lottery similar to a successful lottery in the UK that has contributed more than $2.5 billion to grassroots sport over the past decade.
That idea was scrapped because Australia's state-based lottery laws rendered the idea virtually impossible.
The National Community Sport and Charity Raffle, to be administered by Tabcorp, has been suggested as a viable alternative, particularly for local clubs run by volunteers with little to no funding from their national sports bodies.
Sport Australia's briefing document, seen by the ABC, states: "Tabcorp has been extremely helpful in looking at new ways to fundraise."
Tabcorp is a gambling entertainment company boasting revenue of $3.8 billion in the past financial year, up more than 71 per cent on the previous financial year, with net profit after tax of $28.7 million.
Swimming Victoria chief executive Jason Hellwig told the ABC the Tabcorp raffle "crosses a line".
"There's not a sports administrator in Australia right now, particularly in the Olympic and Paralympic sport environment, who is not dealing with extreme funding pressures," he said.
"This proposal, though, I think is a really bad idea.
"Introducing a partner in Tabcorp — where we all know the issues of integrity, the social and public costs of gambling in Australia are serious — I think at a very simple, logical, common-sense level … doesn't pass a very basic test of common sense and community expectation.
"Sport exists for very important reasons, it contributes to society in many ways.
"I don't think any of us would be comforted by a partnership to fund that had, [at] its core, an ability to introduce people to the industry of sports betting and sports wagering.
"Let's not pretend that's not ultimately where this would go."
A recent study on sports betting in Australia found 41 per cent of all regular sports gamblers experienced one or more betting-related problems.
This is more than twice the rate among regular gamblers nationally.
Around 23 per cent of regular sports gamblers had moderate to severe gambling problems.
Olympic Committee 'doesn't go anywhere near betting'
Recently two of Australia's Olympic sports organisations, table tennis and synchronised swimming, had their entire funding cut just 19 months out from the next Games in Tokyo 2020, while four other sports had their funding earmarked as "contestable".
Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said the Tabcorp raffle was not the answer.
"The Australian Olympic Committee doesn't go anywhere near betting or gambling organisations for reasons of integrity," he said.
"Our call is for the Federal Government to increase funding rather than implementing a raffle.
"Sports already run their own raffles because they don't get enough funding."
The briefing document suggests the plan is "different" to typical club fundraising for a number of reasons, including:
- Tabcorp is committed to underwriting prizes
- Substantially larger prize pools will offer far greater incentive to play
- Tabcorp offers professional distribution tools and platforms
- Support will be available for more than 4,000 retail outlets in phase two
- Tabcorp will offer more frequent opportunities to buy tickets
"One of the comments in the brief that I found particularly concerning was Tabcorp's analysis that there are 750,000 Australians who don't currently connect with any of their products, that they would have an opportunity to connect with through this sort of a model," Mr Hellwig said.
"It's not gambling, it's a raffle, let's be clear … but I think that's the cloak. The body that sits within the cloak I think is far more sinister and far more worrying.
"And surely we're capable of far more depth in our analysis and our consideration of the future of Australian sport and what we should do to secure that future."
Raffle model expected to generate up to $125m for sport
It is suggested that the potential market turnover could reach $250 million per year, with 50 per cent of the money going back into sport.
The remaining 50 per cent is split three ways: 20 per cent to the lottery winners, 10 per cent to Sport Australia and the remaining 20 per cent to Tabcorp for administration and marketing.
"I think what's missing is clarity at a seriously high level around our national policy for sport and our national framework for measuring and valuing sport," Mr Hellwig said.
"It's unequivocal — communities that have great facilities and great engagement with sporting organisations are better, healthier, stronger, more vibrant communities where there are fewer health problems, there are fewer socio-economic problems.
"Sport doesn't need short-term opportunistic solutions, it needs serious policy, serious commitment, serious support and it needs serious people to partner up with it and be part of it who get that bigger, longer-term picture."
Sport Australia declined to comment when contacted by the ABC, although a soft launch of the Tabcorp raffle is expected in the coming week.