Greens leader Richard Di Natale launches plan to ban all gambling ads

Advertisements for gambling would be treated like tobacco promotions and banned completely under a policy announced by the Greens. The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said on Friday the...

Advertisements for gambling would be treated like tobacco promotions and banned completely under a policy announced by the Greens.

The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said on Friday the ban would “make it possible for people to sit down with their kids and watch a game of footy without being bombarded by constant messages to bet”.

He likened it to the prohibition on tobacco advertising instituted in 1992.

After community outcry in 2013, the Gillard government put a stop the promotion of live odds within sports broadcasts during matches.

During the first weekend of this year’s AFL season about one in six advertisements screened during matches were for gambling companies, Fairfax Media has reported.

Samantha Thomas, an associate professor at Deakin University who investigates the impact of gambling advertisements on children, said recent research had shown kids who watched AFL or rugby league had “a high recall of gambling promotions”.

“Kids can tell us the plot lines for ads, the characters that they see within the gambling ads, they’re able to name multiple gambling brands and when we ask kids about where they most see these ads they say in sport,” she said.

She said “risk-reduction promotions” – such as those offering people who have placed a bet on a game their money back if a team is leading at half-time and then loses – were particularly risky.

“The way in which kids interpret those is they think if you gamble and don’t win you’ll automatically get your money back because you can’t lose gambling.”

Tom Cummings, the Greens candidate for the federal seat of La Trobe, is himself a survivor of gambling addiction. He said on Friday he routinely heard young people discussing the odds for their favourite teams and that the “avalanche” of advertisements had normalised the mix of sport and gambling.

“They can’t tell the difference,” he said. “And there’s not a huge gap between a 15-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man who can gamble. There’s only a few years until they’re out there.”

A report in August by Financial Counselling Australia detailed the use of aggressive marketing tactics by sports betting operators, including the use of inducements such as tickets to sporting events and offers of credit to gamblers already heavily in debt.

One case study included in the report detailed how one man was offered up to $500 in free bets and went on to gamble away the proceeds of the sale of his home.

In another, a man attempted suicide owing to his gambling debts and emerged from hospital to an offer by one company to take him to a boxing match.

In December New South Wales banned any advertisement of live odds during commercial breaks of sporting matches broadcast in the state.

The former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell has conducted a review into the online sports betting industry that has been delivered to the government but is yet to be released.

The Australian Wagering Council described the plan as a “piecemeal, political gesture”.

“Comparisons between sports betting advertising and the advertising of known cancer causing products, while headline-grabbing, unhelpfully caricatures a genuinely complex issue of community concern,” the council’s chief executive, Ian Fletcher, said.

He said any ban would “have detrimental commercial impacts on the racing, sporting and media industries”, and instead called for collaboration between the industry and political parties on the issue.

Fletcher added that it was “misguided” to shift the focus to sports betting and away from poker machines. “Statistics reveal that sports betting accounts for only 3% of Australia’s total gambling expenditure,” he said.

In comparison around 52.2% is spent on poker machines in clubs and hotels, according to 2013-14 statistics produced by the Queensland government.

Source: The Guardian