Home » NRL, AFL on collision course with governments over betting ads

NRL, AFL on collision course with governments over betting ads

“If advertising revenue is diminished, the value of sports media rights will diminish. Revenue from media rights is the principal source of income for the major professional sports … This is then used to fund grassroots sporting programs and the activities of leagues and clubs in the sporting pyramid,” the group’s head of policy, Jo Setright, wrote.

“The sports believe the current rules … strike a reasonable and responsible balance between the public interest in regulating gambling advertisement and minimising problem gambling and the ability of legitimate, regulated wagering businesses to operate.”

Advertising for sports betting has become pervasive.Credit:Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Free TV Australia – representing television outlets including Nine Entertainment, which owns this masthead – echoed sporting codes’ concerns about the value of TV broadcast deals and said it would become more difficult to keep sports on free-to-air if gambling ads were reduced.

Anti-gambling groups and other civil society organisations want tighter rules or a total ban on gambling ads, while some players and clubs, including new Collingwood captain Darcy Moore and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, have previously taken aim at what they say is the pervasive influence of gambling in sport.

NSW, Queensland and Tasmania’s submissions to the inquiry argued that current rules were insufficient, while South Australia said a total ban on ads should be considered. Victoria has not made a submission.

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The NSW government said its research found nearly 90 per cent of people believed children were exposed to too much gambling promotion. A 2020 poll by research company YouGov found four in five people thought ads during sporting events should be more tightly restricted.

“Recent changes to rules around advertising during live sporting events have not been sufficient to address community concern,” the NSW government said.

The largest online bookie, Sportsbet, and the body representing online wagering firms, Responsible Wagering Australia, emphasised in their submissions that new rules would reduce revenue collected by sports.

Sportsbet – which donated about $19,000 to the campaign of now-Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, who is responsible for the online gaming act, before the last election and which fell below the threshold for the disclosure rules – said it would welcome a conversation about “practical reforms” such as had been made by alcohol companies.

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“Other regulated industries that are recognised as safe and legitimate forms of entertainment or leisure (such as the alcohol industry) have implemented practical reforms, such as placement rules to limit exposure of minors, and robust guidelines aimed at addressing specific risks of vulnerable people,” Sportsbet said in its submission.

Some restrictions on gambling promotion already exist, but state governments and academics worry they have little effect.

Gambling ads cannot be shown during live sports events until 8.30pm, though betting firms use half-time and other breaks to advertise. Ads are also prohibited between 4pm and 7pm during shows rated C, P or G, but news and current affairs programs are excluded.

Last year the federal government announced online wagering companies would have to ditch the phrase “gamble responsibly” in advertising by next month in favour of new taglines prompting gamblers to consider the consequences of losing a bet.

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The Queensland government’s submission noted the restrictions from 4pm to 7pm applied to 874 minutes out of a total of 2340 minutes of programming across various channels, and that post-7pm television was “saturated” with gambling ads. The restrictions do not include PG-rated shows such as The Simpsons or nightly news bulletins watched by many families.

There were 948 gambling ads on daily free-to-air television in Victoria in 2021, equating to one every 91 seconds and representing a 253 per cent increase from five years earlier, according to research commissioned by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

The South Australian government cited data showing 85 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds watch sport after 8.30pm, when gambling ads are permitted. Children interviewed knew how to place a bet and could recite technical language related to sports betting. About a quarter intended to gamble once they turned 18, research found.