Out of all the methods of gambling available, Sports wagering is by far the fastest-growing in Australia, doubling in size over the last five years. The pastime has unfortunately been unkind to Aussie enthusiasts as the annual losses have increased to over $1 billion.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has decided to step in to mitigate the losses with a campaign to ban sports betting advertising.
For good reason
The rapid increase in revenue that many bookmakers have experienced during COVID-19 prompted the creation of the campaign.
The parent company of Sportsbet, Flutter Entertainment, reported $30 billion in earnings since the beginning of the pandemic and in Australia, the company gained a 59% profit increase.
Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes, raked in $8 billion throughout the pandemic and Sportsbet managed to add 675,000 new customers from Australia.
Tabcorp’s overall decline in retail bookmaking was offset by a 43% growth in its online betting services, and the company’s value increased by $3.8 billion during 2020.
The Northern Territory is a haven for foreign bookmakers due to the limit on wagering taxes of $575,000 annually. Flutter Entertainment’s gains over the last year have exceeded the total GDP of the Northern Territory.
Ads on the chopping block?
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has accused the Australian government of being remiss in its duty to protect its citizens from the dangers of gambling.
Tim Costello, the spokesman for the organization said, “Constant gambling advertising promoting all sorts of ‘bonus bets’ undoubtedly triggered some people to gamble again, or gamble more, some with savings made during lockdowns, or even worse – with superannuation withdrawals.”
“We would be shocked to see a tobacco ad during football and cricket these days because we know children watch these games and naturally want to emulate their heroes and support their sponsors. We must nip this in the bud right now, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is to end gambling advertising.”
On the other hand
Mr Costello’s views are not, however, universally held, Brent Jackson, the CEO of bookmaker lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) feels that a ban on advertising would achieve little aside from harming the industry.
RWA was founded in 2016 and counts brands like Unibet, Betfair, and bet365 among its ranks. The organisation’s website states that it is “committed to ensuring that Australia has the best conducted, socially responsible wagering industry in the world.”
According to Jackson, “While sports betting is growing in popularity, problem gambling rates continue to fall, and wagering advertising complaints are at all-time lows, comprising only 0.31 per cent of all advertising complaints.”
He further stated that while Costello is entitled to his moral opposition of gambling, the industry at large is acting in good faith, Jackson wrapped up by saying, “This is just another self-serving attempt to mislead and to demonise responsible Australian punters.”
An uncertain outcome
Regardless of both sides of this argument having valid points, the power to decide ultimately lies with the Australian Communications and Media Authority that is responsible for the country’s airwaves while investigating complaints and problems. The decision-maker role specifically belongs to Paul Fletcher, the Federal Communications Minister.
Fletcher, for his part, appears to be cagey about flexing his authority for now and has rather opted to continue monitoring the efficacy of the government’s 2018 live sporting events reform in a changing environment.
Without a decision coming any time soon, those arguing for and against sports betting ads will have to wait and see.