Two Sydney basketball teams have become the first representatives of their sport to snub gambling sponsorships through the NSW state government’s Reclaim the Game campaign.
The Sydney Kings and Sydney Uni Flames joined the campaign, which kicked off in 2020, to combat increasingly pervasive ad campaigns and sponsorship deals from the bookies.
With people stuck at home during the pandemic, this form of gambling became more prominent than ever, despite being associated with a higher risk of harm.
“Our own players have been victim to abuse on social media because betting got out of hand,” the chairman and owner of both basketball teams, Paul Smith, said on Wednesday.
“By working with GambleAware, we are encouraging our fans and the community to stay within their means and not let betting take away from what sport should be about.”
Other sports teams that have already come onboard are the Sydney Sixers cricket team, the AFL’s Sydney Swans, and A-League soccer teams the Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC.
‘Insidious, dangerous and devastating’
Gambling reform advocates have slammed the prevalence of betting ads in recent years, which have exploded on and off the field.
Logos of the bookies now appear on jerseys and on the field, as well as during ad breaks.
“The sports betting ads are spending in the millions of dollars, and they are capturing and shaping the culture,” gambling reform advocate the Reverend Tim Costello told The New Daily.
“What is very distressing for me as a sports lover is that it’s now Bet365 that owns the cricket, and Sportsbet that owns the AFL.”
Reverend Costello is the former CEO of World Vision Australia and current chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
According to research by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling, 77 per cent of people also believe that gambling advertising is too prevalent.
“They are the most insidious, dangerous and devastating adult product ads on TV because they are normalising gambling for kids,” Reverend Costello added.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s head of campaigns, Dr Kate Da Costa, told TND that Australians are “world leaders when it comes to having our money stolen by the gambling industry”.
According to the latest nationwide data, which is compiled by the Queensland government, Australians lost more than $961 million from sports betting in the 2018 financial year.
More recent data from NAB found that the amount of money Australians spent – and lost – across all forms of gambling skyrocketed during the pandemic.
Spending in February, 2021, was up almost 60 per cent compared to a year earlier.
“We wouldn’t accept tobacco advertising anymore because we recognise how dangerous those products are, yet gambling products, which we know are just as dangerous and addictive, are given a free run,” Ms Da Costa said.
“In the absence of leadership from the major parties it’s good to see sports teams like the Sydney Kings recognising the harm these dangerous products designed to addict cause our community.”
Reverend Costello said that while racing, for example, had long been connected to gambling, betting on team sports is a much more recent development.
“Now, they have been captured where the football players have been turned into horses and greyhounds,” he said.
“That’s really the tragedy of this, and kids’ heroes they now speak of in terms of ‘What are the odds?’.”