Waterhouse signs NRL, now for AFL

AFTER launching a sizeable and successful bid to become the official wagering partner of the NRL, leading bookmaker Tom Waterhouse is believed to be setting his sights on the AFL to further expand his Australian sporting interests.

The Waterhouse operation made a huge bid to become the official wagering partner of the NRL when it unseated long-term partner Tabcorp.

It is understood that the offer, worth more than $10 million a season for the next five years, was so lucrative that Tabcorp had no choice but to end its partnership with the NRL.

The Waterhouse offer dwarfed the amount Tabcorp had been paying.

''We are no longer a sponsor of the NRL, we will just continue as an approved wagering operator,'' a Tabcorp spokesman said.

Waterhouse is already a betting partner of the AFL, Tennis Australia, the ARU and Cricket Australia. This deal takes the partnership with the NRL to the next level. The combined value of the deal is believed to be $62 million.

Waterhouse also hopes to extend his sponsorship into other sports.

He will be competing with a newcomer to the Australian market, Bet365, for the cricket deal, which is particularly attractive with the back-to-back Ashes series the centrepiece later this year.

It seems that the Waterhouse war chest still has room to make an impact on Australian football, with the bookmaking firm to begin courting the AFL once its four-year deal with Tabcorp — which has two years to run — finishes.

If the betting firm manages to outbid Tabcorp in late 2014, it will mean that Waterhouse will have a national blanket coverage of two of the nation's most popular sports. The partnership between the AFL and Tabcorp means they are wagering partners, with access to signage, corporate hospitality and the use of AFL images for marketing.

It is also believed Waterhouse has paid $15 million across five years to Channel Nine for exclusivity over the NRL's and AFL's Footy Show, as well as rugby league match broadcasts.

The deal will also include Waterhouse taking over the controversial spot during Channel Nine's coverage of rugby league when live odds are presented during games.

Centrebet, which was the gaming sponsor for both footy shows, simply could not compete with the Waterhouse offer.

Fairfax Media understands that Waterhouse doubled the figure Centrebet was previously paying for exclusivity over the two shows.

Waterhouse is one of the biggest advertising spenders among Australia's corporate bookmakers, with an estimated spend of about $20 million a year.

Waterhouse is based in Melbourne but commutes from Sydney every week to run his business.

The business is likely to relocate to Sydney this year.

This story Waterhouse signs NRL, now for AFL first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.