A leading Australian anti-gambling group is calling for a total ban on sports betting ads amid rising levels of online gambling. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Concerns about impressionable people
With online gambling levels increasing significantly in Australia during the pandemic, an anti-gambling group is calling for a ban on sports betting advertising.
undoubtedly triggered some people to gamble again, or gamble more”
The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate Reverend Tim Costello believes that recent reforms by the federal government are not helping to protect Australians. He spoke about how constant ads that offer different types of bonus bets have “undoubtedly triggered some people to gamble again, or gamble more, some with savings made during lockdowns, or even worse – with superannuation withdrawals.”
Superannuation is a form of retirement payment in Australia. During the pandemic, certain eligible Australians were able to make early withdrawals from their superannuation accounts without suffering excessive penalties.
Costello spoke about the level of shock people would have if they saw the likes of tobacco ads during sporting events with impressionable children watching. In his eyes, gambling advertising is just as damaging to young people. He believes that a total ban on sports betting advertising is the best solution, citing other countries like Italy that have introduced similar bans in recent years.
Dismissing the calls for a ban
Australia regularly tops the list of nations with the biggest annual gambling losses per adult, with people losing about AU$24bn (US$18.3bn) on gambling each year. Sports betting is becoming more popular in the country, with annual losses on betting now over AU$1bn (US$746m).
just another self-serving attempt to mislead and to demonise responsible Australian punters”
The main lobbying group for corporate sports betting operators in the country is Responsible Wagering Australia. The group’s chief executive Brent Jackson acknowledged that Costello can have his own opinion on banning gambling ads, but claims that it is “just another self-serving attempt to mislead and to demonise responsible Australian punters.”
Jackson noted that while sports betting is constantly becoming more popular, the rates of problem gambling are also falling and complaints about gambling ads are at all-time lows. He thinks that this evidence indicates that gambling operators are operating in a responsible manner.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform believes that certain sports betting operators see the fines associated with illegal advertising as a cost of doing business. Since 2015, about 25 bookmakers or third-party platforms in New South Wales (NSW) have received convictions for breaching gambling advertising laws.
A boom in online gambling
Many online gambling operators across the world benefited from people staying at home for long periods of time with limited entertainment options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flutter Entertainment’s Australian revenue rose by 59% in 2020, with Entain’s Neds and Ladbrokes betting brands in the country also performing very strongly.
A survey from the Australian Institute of Family Studies last July showed that one in three of the 2,000 respondents had created a new sports betting account during the pandemic. The number of people engaging in gambling at least five times per week was 32%, an increase from 23%.