Aussie Federal Government Mulls Sports Lottery

Sports Minister Greg Hunt says a lottery could help prepare and send teams to the next Olympics

The Australian federal government has an ambivalent attitude toward gambling; on the one hand there are its recent moves to kill off online casino and poker activity, but on the other it happily reaps taxes from extensive online and land sports and race betting and the ubiquitous land pokies (slots) favoured by punters.

This weekend another facet in this curiously lopsided attitude emerged when federal sports minister Greg Hunt revealed that he supports the introduction of a national sports lottery to prepare Aussie athletes for the next Olympic Games and arrest the nation’s downward slide in its medal tally (the 2016 Rio games saw the Aussies return home with the lowest medal account they have achieved in 24 years).

Local media reports indicate that the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), the government’s funding agency, have pushed for a national lottery fund similar to the model that has underpinned Britain’s Olympic success (at least the Brits are even-handed in their treatment of regulated gambling).

Hunt is confident that a special lottery  could deliver up to A$50 million annually in additional funding for athletes, stressing that it would have to be properly legislated and regulated.

“In 30, 50 and 100 years it will still be here and providing a way to support participation and support performance for Australian sport,” Hunt told local reporters.

Government funding for the AOC and ASC has apparently been dwindling, creating tensions between the bodies over available finances

Australia’s waning Olympic performances have made sports financing a sensitive issue, and the AOC and ASC have been at odds over how to spend reduced government funding.

These have been especially bitter following the ASC’s “Winning Edge” program, which allocates more funding for those sports it deems have a better chance at winning medals. That did not produce the desired results in Rio.

Minister Hunt has suggested a model that would see two-thirds of the proposed lottery’s proceeds going to sport, with the remainder set aside for arts and heritage protection. He envisages a lottery run by a third party after a tender process.