Online Gambling Surge Sparks Call to Ban Sports Betting Ads

Could sports betting ads become a thing of the past in Australia?

A surge in online gambling has sparked renewed calls for a ban on sports betting ads in Australia.

Foreign-owned bookmakers have enjoyed unprecedented success during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Entain Plc, owners of Ladbrokes, gained $8 billion in market value over the past 12-months. That figure is dwarfed by the $30 billion gains enjoyed by Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Sportsbet.

A 46% boost in turnover and a 59% increase in Australian revenue bolstered Flutter’s balance sheet during the 2020 financial year.

Both Entain and Flutter benefit from the low taxes the Northern Territory levies. Wagering tax is capped at $575,000 per year, for example. Flutter’s gain in market capitalisation is more than the entire GDP of the Northern Territory.

Call To Ban Sports Betting Ads

Reverend Tim Costello is the chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform. Costello wants a blanket ban on sports betting ads.

“Constant gambling advertising promotion all sorts of ‘bonus bets’ undoubtedly triggered some people to gamble again, or gamble more, some with savings made during lockdown, 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.”

Costello’s comments follow an Australian Institute of Family Studies survey. The survey asked 2,019 randomly selected individuals about their gambling habits. Key findings showed almost one in three participants opened a new online betting account during COVID-19. Some one in 20 started gambling online for the first time.

The survey did not detail what prompted these people to open betting accounts. However, almost half of the participants called for changes to sports betting ads.

“It’s everywhere from TV ads, to billboards, to social media ads. It’s bigger than the game, and you CAN’T avoid it, it’s too much,” said a 23-year-old male.

A 28-year-old male participant called for professional sports teams to distance themselves from gambling companies.

“Professional sporting bodies must distance themselves from being directly aligned with these betting agencies. Stop having official sponsors – that’s the only way to reduce the content and advertising during sport and on sporting websites/platforms.”

Australian Sports Betting Losses Now Exceed $1 Billion Annually

Betting on sports is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia. Total wagers doubled in the five years to 2017-2018, and losses now exceed $1 billion. Costello called for immediate action from the Australian government.

“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.”

Australia has relatively strict rules regarding sports betting ads. For example, sports betting ads cannot encourage people to gamble more frequently. Furthermore, adverts are only permitted at certain times in an attempt to protect children.

Gambling companies adhere to the guidelines set out by the Australian Communications and Media Authority but do sometimes step out of line. The punishments for doing so are insignificant compared to the money the companies make.

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority hit Sportsbet with a $22,000 fine a couple of weeks ago. Sportsbet offered customers $50 back in bonus bets of their horse finished second or third in certain races. The fine came 12-months after one worth $17,300 for similar offences.

$22,000 is nothing to a company that recorded a $1.228 billion operating profit last year. Sports betting ads that step out of line will continue until the punishment fits the crime.