As AFL players begin to speak out about the “onslaught of gambling advertising” fans are bombarded with when watching a game, leading industry figures are calling for tougher restrictions on wagering companies.
Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood re-ignited the debate with a particularly forthright Twitter post that slammed gambling as a “sinister and dangerous activity”.
And star Geelong utility Harry Taylor kicked the conversation along when he cited concerns that his children were too exposed to gambling – simply by watching sport.
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation acting chief executive officer Craig Swift hailed Wood and Taylor for their tough stance on gambling ads in sporting broadcasts.
“The foundation applauds the leadership of AFL players Easton Wood and Harry Taylor in speaking out about the impact gambling advertising is having on young people,” Mr Swift told The New Daily.
“By taking a stand on this issue, both players are tapping into strong community sentiment and their support is a great boost for awareness raising on this matter.
“The foundation understands many parents are concerned with the saturation level of gambling advertising in sports broadcasts and how it is impacting on their children.”
A 2016 study on gambling sponsorship in Australian sport, led by Deakin University’s Professor Samantha Thomas, contained results that should worry all Australians.
“[It] found that two-thirds of children were able to identify a sports betting brand and that about one in five could name three or more,” Mr Swift added.
“It also showed that 75 per cent of young people think gambling is a normal part of sport.
“We have called on tougher restrictions on advertising … including restricting gambling advertising until after 9pm.”
Gambling advertising is not permitted to be shown on television during children’s viewing times but companies are currently exploiting a loophole that allows them to broadcast in those timeslots if they are part of a sport or news program.
An attempt to amend the Interactive Gambling Bill 2016 – which bans live betting over the internet in Australia – was made last week to include a commitment to a transition plan to phase out gambling advertising during sporting broadcasts, but it was not supported.
Wood: ‘Gambling advertising is out of control’
The Bulldogs defender was moved to post on Twitter after attending an AFL education session, in which he wrote “there was one topic I just couldn’t stomach. Gambling”.
“Every year we’re told it’s a sinister and dangerous activity because of the associated risks that come with gambling, all of which have proven very real.
“What I can’t understand is that if this is such an issue that we need an annual education sessions, why – as an industry – do we support the onslaught of gambling advertising you’re now faced with when watching an AFL game.
“The obvious issue here is the effort this advertising has on children every time they watch us pull on our boots. The big question is do we think the normalisation of gambling – particularly to kids – is acceptable in this day and age?”
Wood asked his followers to “let me know if you agree”. The tweet has had more than 5200 interactions.
Taylor, who has played 204 matches for Geelong, said: “I’ve got three kids at home and when my eldest can name a lot of the ads on TV, that is a bit of a worry.
“[It’s] certainly something that we need to keep talking about and educating people about.”
He added that education around gambling was “really, really important” for society, including AFL players.
Of the 10 Melbourne-based AFL clubs, nine have signed the Responsible Gambling Charter, which means they forgo sponsorship from betting companies.
North Melbourne is the only Melbourne-based AFL club that does not operate pokie machines.