Sports wagering is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia, and it’s doubled in size over the last five years. Unfortunately, most Aussies don’t seem especially adept at it, as annual losses have risen to more than $1 billion.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is tired of seeing fellow Australians pour their money down the drain. That’s why they’ve started a campaign to put an end to sports betting advertising.

Inspiration for the Campaign

This anti-advertising campaign was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous bookmakers who saw increases in revenue. For example:

  • Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Sportsbet, has risen $30 billion in earnings so far during the pandemic. In Australia, they’ve experienced a 59% profit increase.
  • Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes, has enjoyed an $8 billion surge during the pandemic.
  • During 2023, Sportsbet added 675,000 new customers from Australia.
  • While Tabcorp experienced an overall decline in retail bookmaking, their online betting services climbed 43%. Ultimately, their value increased by $3.8 billion during 2023.

Foreign bookmaker are especially fond of the Northern Territory, where there’s a cap on wagering taxes of $575,000 annually. In fact, the gains enjoyed last year by Flutter Entertainment were greater than the overall GDP of the Northern Territory.

Opposing Sports Betting Ads

The Alliance for Gambling Reform believes that the Australian government has done little to protect their citizens from the dangers of gambling. According to Tim Costello, the spokesman for the organization, “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.”

He added, “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.”

Responsible Wagering Australia

Not everyone, however, agrees with Mr. Costello. At the moment, the leading voice of opposition belongs to Brent Jackson, CEO of bookmaker lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia.

In case you’re unfamiliar, RWA appeared in 2016 and has members such as Unibet, Betfair, and bet365. According to their website, they’re “committed to ensuring that Australia has the best conducted, socially responsible wagering industry in the world.”

Mr. Jackson considers sports betting advertising to be a non-issue. According to him, “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 added that Costello was certainly entitled to his moral opposition of gambling, but gambling companies were already doing the right thing. In closing, Jackson added, “This is just another self-serving attempt to mislead and to demonise responsible Australian punters.”

A Wait-and-See Approach

While both sides make some compelling points, it all comes down to the Australian Communications and Media Authority. This government agency plans and manages the airwaves, and they also look into all complaints and problems.

More specifically, it comes down to Paul Fletcher, who happens to be the Federal Communications Minister. Mr. Fletcher is the big boss of the ACMA, and he wields great authority over radio, TV, phones, and the internet.

However, he seems reluctant to wield any of his authority at the moment. Instead, he prefers to monitor the effectiveness of the government’s 2018 reform in regards to the evolving landscape of live sporting events.

Some might refer to this posture as “taking a wait-and-see approach.” Others, however, might look at it as staying neutral in order to protect his job. Either way, it appears that the debate over sports betting ads is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Additional Reading

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