Gambling harm concerns as AFL and Gambling ads return

Gambling harm concerns as AFL and Gambling ads return

10 June 2020

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is concerned the return of AFL and its associated gambling advertising could lead to increased gambling harm after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Alliance Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello, said there appeared to have already been a spike in gambling advertising during the lockdown and he expected this to ramp up as AFL returned tomorrow.

“Like most Victorians, I’m delighted the AFL is back, and with it some sense of normalcy is returning after such strange times, but if the past 10 weeks of gambling advertising is anything to go by we will no doubt see our screens and radio airwaves absolutely saturated with gambling ads,” he said.

“The gambling industry is one that still has money to spend on advertising, thanks to raking in millions from gambling harm, so it has been in a position to negotiate great deals with broadcasters to air even more ads than they normally would.

“Every ad break during family-friendly shows such as Masterchef has had gambling advertising during COVID-19, and it’s disturbing. Not only can people experiencing gambling harm not escape these ads, they’re also deliberately promoting gambling to children and young people. They are grooming their next generation of sports lovers to believe gambling is glamorous, that it’s an integral part of sport, and that it is a normal part of Australian society. It’s insidious and frankly disgusting.”

Rev Costello said the Alliance was running an #EndGamblingAds campaign to both assist adults who experience gambling harm and also protect children from exposure to a dangerous, adult product.

“Tobacco advertising was banned a long time ago because it was acknowledged it was not only promoting an unhealthy product, but also because it normalised smoking and made it appealing to children. The same principles apply to gambling advertising.

“Then there is the very real worry about adults who may be experiencing gambling harm, many of them people who will have effectively gone ‘cold turkey’ during lockdown as their favourite sports won’t have been available to bet on. Constant gambling advertising promoting all sorts of ‘bonus bets’ will undoubtedly trigger some people to gamble again, or gamble more, perhaps with savings made during lockdown, or even worse -- with superannuation withdrawals, as has been reported.

Rev Costello said it was time gambling harm was treated as the public health issue that it is, and that gambling advertising was addressed through this lens.

“We would be shocked to see a tobacco ad during football and cricket these days because we know children watch these games and want to emulate their heroes and support the sponsors of their teams,” he said. “Exposure to gambling advertising has been found to be higher for 13 to 17-year-olds than for adults, and three-quarters of Australian children aged 8–16 years who watch sport think betting on sport is normal. That’s not normal!

“One in three high school students report they have already gambled. That’s especially disturbing when you consider that sports wagering is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia, doubling in the five years to 2017-2018, with losses now exceeding more than $1 billion annually."

“We must nip this in the bud right now, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is to end gambling advertising. Other countries have done so, including Italy, because they recognise the harm gambling does, and that it is completely inappropriate to promote it. It’s time Australia did the right thing too.”

Media contact: Tony Mohr on 0402 336 416 or [email protected]