“Canny” gambling companies will find their way around a ban on betting ads during sporting events, an industry researcher and anti-gambling crusader Tim Costello have warned.
The new ban restricting gambling ads from five minutes before the start of a match until five minutes after the match, and before 8.30pm, is part of a package of sweeping media reforms announced by the Turnbull government.
The plan faced a backlash from the executives of some of the nation’s biggest sporting codes when it was announced last month. They argued restricting gambling advertising would slash the value of the television rights their codes attract.
But speaking in the United States before his flight back to Australia on Saturday morning, Mr Turnbull said the plan would go ahead.
“Parents around Australia will be delighted when they know that during football matches, and cricket matches, live sporting events before 8:30pm, there will be no more gambling ads,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said the ban would not apply to racing. Executives from the AFL and NRL had been lobbying Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to scrap the plans.
Deakin University associate professor of public health Samantha Thomas told The New Daily the reform was the most any government had done to protect children from exposure to betting advertising, but warned of “canny gambling companies” which would exploit regulatory loopholes.
“The gambling industry is creative and would already be looking into ways to get around this ban,” associate professor Thomas said.
The Melbourne-based researcher who found in a recent survey that three out of four children can recall at least one sports betting brand, while more than a quarter can recall four or more, said the ban did not restrict gambling companies from advertising during “current affair programs” or “preview sporting programs” during children’s viewing hours.
“They will exploit loopholes and I think we’ll see advertorial programs in the lead into matches. We need to really careful about that and monitor that,” she said.
She said programs such as Friday Night Footy and the Big Bash League were also family programs that would run well after 8.30pm.
“There’s no evidence that gambling companies are directly targeting kids, but kids are highly exposed to ads, and it’s positively shaping their perception and attitudes towards gambling,” associate professor Thomas said.
“The fact is kids are exposed to it during something that is culturally valued to them, sport,” she said.
TV companies ‘compensated’
As part of the announcement, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield also abolished free-to-air broadcasting annual licence fees, estimated to raise about $130 million on television and radio to improve their ability to compete with other media platforms.
Tim Costello, a vocal anti-gambling campaigner at the Alliance for Gambling Relief, said there was no question cuts to licensing fees were a “concession” to media companies screaming their dependence on the gambling advertising revenue stream.
“The government has found a way to soften the blow, and the next thing will be to get through this through the Senate,” Mr Costello said.
“There’s so much money at stake and the gambling companies will find every loophole they can,” he said.
Sportsbet chief financial officer Ben Sleep welcomed the government announcement in a statement, saying the sports-focused betting company had been “driving” for advertising reform.
“… We are strongly committed to advertising responsibly and recognise our role in meeting community expectations,” Mr Sleep said.
He said Sportsbet would be working closely with Senator Fifield and the government to implement the changes.
Senator Nick Xenophon said the gambling advertising restriction was a “big win for consumers and families” at a press conference yesterday.
“Obviously we want to see this go further, but this a good, big, first step. It will actually mean that kids won’t be bombarded with these gambling ads particularly during G-rated times,” Mr Xenophon said.