A generation of children increasingly believe the game is inextricably linked to the AFL | sport bets
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan will receive many tributes for his eight-year legacy of leading the nation’s first sporting code and guiding it through Covid to bring joy to millions, despite dire lockdowns. Rightly so – but there is a huge shadow over his legacy.
McLachlan took over as managing director from Andrew Demetriou, who immediately joined the board of Crown Resorts and helped strike a deal with his protege around sports betting, as new Crownbet became the main sponsor of AFL game.
Demetriou eventually had to – along with most directors – resign from the board of Crown Resorts after a royal commission-style investigation in New South Wales. But Demetriou’s legacy lived on, as his successor twice renewed the $10m-a-year “AFL Official Gaming Partner” deal, while Crownbet became Beteasy, which was then picked up by Sportsbet.
As a result, we now have the Sportsbet Brownlow Medal and a Sportsbet Grand Final, as a generation of children increasingly believe that gambling is inextricably linked to our great Australian game.
Under McLachlan’s leadership, the AFL pocketed nearly $100 million in direct gaming sponsorship revenue and signed television rights deals, which led to a tsunami of advertisements from foreign betting agencies at the television, radio, digital and on all grounds where AFL matches are played. – with the noble exception of Geelong.
The original Sportsbet, started by wealthy listener Matt Tripp, was estimated to be worth just $250,000 in 2005. But after a successful High Court challenge that breached Tab’s advertising restrictions and state monopolies, Tripp and a group of global competitors got cheap game licenses. of the Northern Territory Government and signed deal after deal.
Sportsbet is now owned by Dublin-based Flutter Entertainment, the world’s largest online gaming company with a market capitalization of $29.5 billion. In its latest results, Flutter rejoiced to hold 50% of the online gambling market in Australia, with 1.1 million regular monthly players who have collectively lost $2.3 billion just because of it. from Sportsbet in 2021.
They described it as “an excellent performance”.
The same unfortunately applies to other major sports codes where Sportsbet is also the ‘official gaming partner’ (the NRL), while UK company Bet 365 has locked down Cricket Australia.
This is the first generation of parents whose kids grow up watching sports while being bombarded with constant gambling ads. A generation ago (except for horse and greyhound racing), this was unthinkable.
We must remember that gambling is an adult product like alcohol, tobacco and legalized brothels. We don’t let them in children’s faces even though all of them are legal.
Sponsorship of games of chance and advertising during family-friendly television viewing hours are the exception and are now ubiquitous. We surrendered to a dangerous and addictive adult product that legitimized itself by taking over the dominant sporting heights.
It changed their perception of sports and introduced the language of betting odds into many sports conversations our children have. Every AFL Club app kids have on their phone is likely to show up first when you just want to check teams or match start time.
This particular plague is due to the AFL handing over the keys to its digital data empire to the highest bidder in gambling.
The federal government is certainly not blameless, as Australians continually claim the world record for gambling losses per capita, which will hit $25 billion this year alone.
The Prime Minister and his communications minister, Paul Fletcher, are refusing to heed our call to ban sports betting sponsorship and advertising. Spain and Italy recently banned gambling sponsorship for all sports teams, especially football.
But in Canberra they are timid regulators, having banned in-play betting but little else. Instead, family viewing shows from MasterChef to The Block and even the 6 p.m. news are covered in betting commercials.
Remember we have removed sponsorship of the Benson and Hedges Cricket Cup, although tobacco is still legal, and we have removed Foster’s AFL Grand Final as inappropriate for family enjoyment of the game. But our politicians have literally succumbed to betting companies, sitting idly by while pocketing their donations, as these increasingly multinational corporations demonstrate the state’s stranglehold on regulators.
The AFL and other codes have sold us a “story of inevitability”: that without sports betting sponsorships, we could not enjoy top-level professional sport.
But there is nothing inevitable about the game being so intertwined with sport.