<big>Crown takes gamble on Storm</big>
AAP February 4, 2011, 3:07 pm
Melbourne are expecting a backlash as the latest NRL club to link with a gambling establishment after confirming Crown casino as their new major sponsor.
In a massive coup for a club which last year was in disgrace after being stripped of all points and two premierships during the salary-cap scandal, the Storm unveiled Crown as their front-of-jersey sponsor on Friday.
Melbourne chief executive Ron Gauci admitted there would be criticism of the club’s link with gambling.
However he defended the arrangement and said Crown offered a home for Storm supporters, which the club hadn’t had since it joined the competition in 1998.
All Storm after-match and mid-season functions for members will be held at Crown.
The casino believes the sponsorship will boost their exposure interstate.
“I think you’ll have those that wish to comment but I think we need to emphasise what it is that we wanted out of the relationship and that is a home for our supporter base,” Gauci said.
“If you think about what Crown has to offer as an entertainment complex … this is a great place to consolidate those activities.”
The Storm lost major sponsors Host Plus and ME Bank in the wake of last season’s scandal.
Gauci said the new sponsorship delivered a message of confidence in the Storm ahead of the 2011 season.
“I think it does deliver us a substantial message to the marketplace, and for the club it’s very important to have an organisation as big a Melbourne icon as Crown is to support the club,” he said.
“It delivers a magnificent message about the confidence the corporate world has in Melbourne Storm and our future direction.”
The Storm joined South Sydney as the second NRL club to have a gambling establishment as their major sponsor, while Penrith have renamed their home ground Centrebet Stadium and Manly will also have the Centrebet logo on the back of their jumper.
Melbourne’s announcement also comes in the same week as Ryan Tandy, who left the Storm midway through last season to join Canterbury, was arrested and charged as a result of an ongoing police investigation into irregular betting on a match between the Bulldogs and North Queensland last August.
Dennis Watt, rugby league general manager with News Limited, who own the Storm, defended the arrangement between a gambling establishment and a sport sold as a family game.
“I can speak for Crown as an integrated entertainment, retail complex,” Watt said.
“It is very much reflective of the heart and soul of Melbourne and it’s a great relationship for us to have and I don’t see a conflict for the relationship the Storm have sought here.”
He echoed the views recently expressed by NRL chief executive David Gallop that the association between sport and gambling “is as old as sport itself”.
“Gambling’s a part of the Australian way of life, part of our character and our history,” he said.
"We advocate moderation, we know that problem gambling affects less than half a per cent of the population.
“You’ve got two million problem drinkers, four million smokers, over nine million Australians suffering levels of obesity which are also big social issues.”
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Great news for the Storm to bag such a high profile sponsor.