Why some say no to sports betting and their ad dollars

Australia’s most high-profile athletes have spoken out in recent weeks against companies sponsoring their sports organisations, citing concerns about climate change and racism.

But there is also emerging resistance from others around betting providers and their impact.

The federal government announced this week that it would require new disclaimers in advertisements from betting companies to replace the phrase “gamble responsibly”, and professional sports clubs are increasingly joining anti-gambling campaigns.

Meanwhile, two of Australia’s top sports podcasts have turned down partnership offers from betting companies, and the host of another – after hearing from those who have suffered from gambling – is no longer working with the industry.

The response highlights a growing tension within Australian sport over the normalization of betting.

In a 2019 study, nearly a quarter of bettors said they were under 18 when they first placed a bet. More than two-thirds of young men who bet on sports pose a risk or already experience harm from gambling.

Last month, Western Sydney Wanderers extended their relationship with the NSW Office of Responsible Gaming and its Reclaim the Game campaign to now include their Women’s A-League team.

Club CEO Scott Hudson said at the time “it’s important for us to have an impact beyond the pitch”.

The arrangement also had a positive impact on the club’s bottom line. His precise value is considered commercial with confidence, but a similar deal between Adelaide United and the South Australian government last year netted the club $328,000 over three years.

Reclaim the Game has sponsorship deals with the Sydney Swans, Kings and Flames of basketball, Cricket NSW, Macarthur Bulls of football and the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs of the NRL.

Program funding for the current year is $1.2 million.

Revenue is made up of a levy levied on the two NSW casinos and the consumption tax on online betting.

The scheme was modeled after the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and its Love the Game, Not The Odds campaign, established in 2013.

This program now includes 10 AFL clubs, the Boomers and Phoenix in basketball, the Rebels in rugby, the Vixens in netball, the Stars and Renegades in cricket and Western United in the A-Leagues.

He claims to have blocked up to $5.9 million in gambling sponsorship between 2019 and 2021.

But there is no shortage of opportunities for sports betting companies to advertise.

The flowing money

The betting companies have long-standing relationships with major Australian sports organisations, such as the NRL and AFL, as Australian gambling laws require companies to obtain the approval of a sport before betting. be able to place bets on the code.

Betting companies have also entered into agreements with clubs, former stars, broadcasters or the media at large. But not all have accepted what is offered.

Sam Perry of The Grade Cricketer podcast says he and co-host Ian Higgins’ decision to turn down betting partnerships was driven primarily by content considerations and the type of show they wanted to do.

“We are fortunate to be listened to by tens of thousands of young adults, some under the age of 18, some over the age of 18, and as sports observers we observe that children and young adults are often overwhelmed with gambling ads every time they watch sports.

Sam Perry (seated) and Ian Higgins created The Grade Cricketer podcast in 2016.(Provided)

“Australians are rightly skeptical of preachers and wowsers, and we constantly reference alcohol and drugs on the show, but from a fan’s perspective, it doesn’t matter how they’re dressed. , the game’s cover irritates people and isn’t inherently funny, so we’re giving it a wide berth.”

The Grade Cricketer features in Apple’s top 20 Australian sports podcast alongside The Final Word, cricket journalists Geoff Lemon – a former casino croupier – and Adam Collins.

They too have refused approaches from betting companies and previously interviewed ABC journalist Steve Cannane in 2019 following his investigation of Bet365, Cricket Australia’s own betting partner.

Yet the competitive sports betting market and its reliance on advertising has given sports and sports media players a growing source of revenue.

The gaming industry spent $287 million on advertising in Australia in 2021, up from $90 million in 2011.

Perry says he doesn’t judge others who have accepted gambling sponsorships.

“We have friends and colleagues who do similar things to us, who partner with gambling companies, and we support their right to grow their business as they see fit morally and ethically.”

Change one’s mind

Football broadcaster Max Rushden moved to Australia last year and has had associations with betting companies through his previous work in the UK.

But when the Guardian Football Weekly podcast host – currently fifth on Apple’s Australian sports podcast chart – signed a deal with a bookmaker three years ago to promote on social media, it sparked a period of introspection.

“Deep down I knew it was a morally questionable decision, and if I was a real hero, I would have said no straight away,” he said.

A man in a black polo shirt smiles at the camera
English football broadcaster Max Rushden has stopped promoting with sports betting companies.(Provided)

“I sent my first tweet, and the reaction I got was really nice like, ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed, I’m surprised you’re doing this’.”

Former drug addict James Grimes contacted him and the matter was discussed on the podcast.

“I’ve spoken to James and a number of other gambling addicts, and the more you understand the gambling industry, the more likely I am to step down.

“I remember chatting with James, and he said he was sitting by his father’s deathbed, and he was on an online gambling site, just playing wheel casino, and it really struck me as a singular moment.”

Rushden said he was lucky enough to be professionally busy enough to be able to end the betting partnership, and he acknowledges that some of his other work is supported by advertisements and bookmaker sponsors.

“I don’t have so many principles that I haven’t walked away from that because I think you should be able to do your job because unless you’re working at the BBC in the UK you need money from advertising.

“But I think it will be really interesting in the future if it follows the same path as cigarette and alcohol advertising and stops altogether.”

A woman with curly brown hair wearing a red suit jacket stands outside in front of a set of microphones.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has admitted the publicity requirement on ‘betting responsibility’ hasn’t worked.(ABC: Lincoln Rothall)

Many believe that there is simply too much publicity for sports betting. According to a 2020 survey funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, nine out of 10 sports fans agree that people aged 12 to 17 see too much sports betting advertising.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth told ABC NewsRadio that the change to gambling advertising slogans announced today was the first step in a series of reforms currently being considered.

However, she declined to answer why the government hasn’t completely banned betting ads:

“We need to take action now. This has been well studied, well reviewed and it works. It works. And so this is one of many steps, including activity records, that show people how much they have lost in the last month. An opt-out register will arrive at the end of November. There are a number of steps and this is only the last step we are taking to minimize any harm or fraud related to gambling.”

Rushden said her main concern is for people who suffer from gambling addiction.

“It’s not enough to say, well, ‘when the fun stops, stop’ [the UK’s safer gambling advertising message] at the end of a big advertisement saying bet on all these things.

“And it’s on the front of every shirt, at every pitch, in every half-time and full-time commercial break.”

But he recognizes that the game is an integral part of sport and society in general, and that each participant must draw his own line somewhere.

“I guess I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, because I still talk about it on the radio from time to time and stuff, but my position is that I won’t take the money straight.

“…And I just hope no bookmaker offers me $20 million and really tests my resolve.”

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