Sportsbet, owned by leading Irish bookmaker, Paddy Power, has had its contract as wagering partner of the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) renewed. The contract, valued at more than $60 million, will run until the end of 2020.

The announcement by the NRL has caused much criticism as they did not go through a proper tendering process or consider bids from rival operators, including the Australian-owned CrownBet.

Chief executive of CrownBet, Matt Tripp, expressed the company’s disappointment in the outcome, saying: “Given the fact we’re the last Australian operator in the land and it’s gone to an Irish operator, the profits are not retained in Australia.”

However, a spokesperson for the NRL said the company stood by their decision and made a choice that was for the benefit of the NRL.

“This agreement with Sportsbet is not just about revenue…. It is about responsible gambling, marketing, promotional and digital benefits as well,” said the spokesperson.

“And we have secured more than $60 million for the game at all levels. We have already had a partnership with Sportsbet and this renewal is an outstanding result for the game.”

Andrew Abdo, head of commercial at the NRL added: “One of the crucial factors in this agreement is that there will be controls in place to restrict the promotion of wagering, especially to minors and Sportsbet will fund and implement a market leading responsible gambling program.”

“We already have a partnership with Sportsbet, but this extension will see a significant increase in funding for Rugby League.”

Chief marketing officers at Sportsbet, Barni Evans said that interest in the Rugby League is higher than ever with ratings, membership and crowds all increasing in size and that the company is happy to retain their partnership with the NRL.