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Is There a Future for Pokies and the NRL?

Sport and gambling have always had a tight bond in Australia. Thanks to the relationship between pokie machines and rugby clubs at all levels of the game, money has flowed freely for the last few decades and that’s made the NRL’s top teams some of the toughest in the world.

However, since the government increased taxation on poker machine profits in 2010, both the NRL and its teams have been feeling the pinch. With millions of dollars in revenue gradually being lost to taxation, clubs have had to become less reliant on this income and that’s forced the NRL to act.

Much Needed Funding

NRL GF 2014

NRL GF 2014” (CC BY 2.0) by  Scott Nolan 

Sensing an impending iceberg, the sport’s governing body agreed a funding deal at the end of 2015 that promised to make all 16 clubs breakeven businesses by 2018.

According to reports, the deal will give each of the 16 clubs grants totalling 130% of player payments, plus $1.5 million, between 2016 and 2022. Additionally, from 2018 until 2022 an extra $100 million will be pumped into the NRL as well as a further $100 million in grassroots rugby.

The hope is that this money will help each club become a sustainable entity and, moreover, quell any further talks of a breakaway Super League-style division where clubs would become shareholders and, therefore, holders of their own financial destiny.

Gaming Could Still be Relevant

Slot Machine

Slot Machine” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  Jeff Kubina 

Of course, this new funding deal doesn’t mean the longstanding relationship between rugby and the gambling world has to come to an end. In fact, if clubs were able to take some advice from other sports, they might be able to enjoy a more bountiful relationship with the gambling world.

For example, English soccer clubs Manchester United and Chelsea have recently branched out into the online casino world with their own pokies. Fully branded and available across a range of online sites, these games not only generate some revenue for the clubs (through the licensing rights) but they help increase their exposure.

Taking this as an example, there’s no reason NRL clubs couldn’t do the same. By linking up with an iGaming platform such as Pokies.com online, the likes of South Sydney Rabbitohs and Brisbane Broncos could easily launch their own range of branded games. Whether it was pokies, blackjack or scratchcards, a few branded games could provide a much needed financial shot in the arm for a number of clubs.

A Gamble Worth Taking

Gambling man

Gambling man” (CC BY 2.0) by  sampsyo 

Indeed, when you survey the stats, the Aussie online gambling industry was worth an estimated $3.4 billion in 2015 which means there’s a lot of traction in the market. Although self-branded pokies might not be instant money spinners for the NRL’s top teams, they could certainly help steady the ship.

Of course, the new funding deal for the NRL will certainly ensure the longevity of the league; however, it doesn’t mean that clubs should rely on this money completely. Exploring the links between rugby and gambling from a slightly different angle is a way to continue a longstanding tradition and, hopefully, boost the bankrolls of all our favourite teams going forward.

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