Australia’s biggest sporting codes have rejected calls for more regulation of online gambling despite some of the country’s biggest clubs and athletes raising concerns.
The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (Compps) has told a federal parliamentary inquiry that current advertising and broadcast restrictions are sufficient alongside action by individual sporting codes.
Compps’ executive director of policy, Jo Setright, said the existing arrangements strike the right balance between “the public interest in watching sport without excessive references to gambling and live odds or undue exposure of viewers including children to gambling promotion” and “the right of betting operators to advertise their products in a socially responsible manner”.
“Any measures that impact the advertising revenue model for broadcasters may affect the value of sports’ media rights, which [our] members use to fund their grassroots and game development and other programs,” Setright said in a submission to the inquiry.
Compps represents AFL, NRL, Tennis Australia, Rugby Australia, Football Australia and Netball Australia.
In recent months, several clubs and athletes have been critical of the dominance of wagering advertisements. They are concerned gambling is increasingly seen as a normal part of sport.
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NRL clubs South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury Bulldogs announced they would ban betting promotions on ground signage and big screens and remove sponsorship from all club apparel.
The parliamentary inquiry chair, Labor MP Peta Murphy, said Compps’ statement was not in line with community sentiment.
“That does not gel well with the clear community sentiment and it does not gel well with some of the evidence we are receiving from experts about increasing gambling and increasing gambling harm,” Murphy told Guardian Australia.
“Obviously the committee wants to interrogate that position with them and give them the opportunity to talk to it.”
The Rabbitohs chief executive, Blake Solly, did not comment on the Compps statement, deferring questions to the NRL, but said the club “continues to support the Reclaim the Game campaign to reduce community exposure to sports betting advertising”.
Melbourne ruckman and former Collingwood star Brodie Grundy has also raised concerns about the exposure of young AFL fans to gambling advertisements, describing the situation as “worrying”.
An average of 948 gambling advertisements were broadcast each day on free-to-air television in Victoria during 2021, according to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
Compps told the inquiry revenue generated by wagering partnerships allowed governing bodies to fund their integrity units and other “operational priorities”.
“It is important that any review of online gambling regulation recognises the need for such funding to continue in order to support the maintenance and where necessary strengthening of the sports’ integrity protection programs,” Setright said.
Australia has the highest gambling losses of any country, at an average of $1,276 a person each year, with problem gambling rates more than doubling from 0.6% of the adult population in 2011 to 1.23% in 2019.
Last month, the federal government announced plans for gambling companies to replace the “gamble responsibly” tagline on advertisements to one of six new warnings including: “Chances are you’re about to lose.”
The changes were welcomed by the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, who said a complete ban on gambling advertisements should be considered.
“We need to have a conversation about whether or not gambling ads should be on at all – especially given that children are often watching sport, or families are together to support their favourite team when the betting ads come on,” Littleproud said in November.