Victorian mayor calls on councils to follow lead after banning gambling ads at local sports games

Tina Samardzija faces opposition from clubs and gaming venues but says children should not be ‘exposed to a message that gambling is normal’

A local mayor in Victoria has encouraged councils across Australia to follow her lead and ban all gambling advertisements at local sport matches rather than waiting for state or federal action.

The City of Monash’s anti-gambling policy, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, is facing coordinated opposition from local sports clubs that warn they could be forced to close, and from gaming venues that feel unfairly targeted.

According to the policy, sports clubs that continue to display the logos of sponsors that have gambling machines will eventually be banned from council grounds and clubhouses. At the moment, these logos appear on some jerseys, websites, newsletters and billboards around council grounds.

City of Monash mayor, Tina Samardzija, said local governments should “absolutely” play a bigger role in preventing gambling harm and dismissed claims that councils should not be involved in social policy.

“Our community is very concerned about young people being exposed to gambling,” Samardzija said.

“In my view, there is nothing that’s more of a local government issue than kids going to play sport at their local clubs and being exposed to a message that gambling is normal.”

The City of Monash estimates $84.9m was collected by local poker machines during financial year 2021-22.

One of the biggest gambling venues in the area, Mulgrave Country Club, collected $7.1m in gaming revenue last financial year. It sponsors dozens of local sports clubs offering junior football, netball, baseball, squash, cricket and softball games.

“We are a nonprofit and only give away our money to local community groups and sporting clubs,” said the venue’s president, Peter Delaney.

“Mulgrave Country Club has been contacted by numerous community sporting clubs who are concerned the annual funding they receive from us may cease.”

Samardzija said gaming venues should continue to spend money on community sport but not expect thanks in return.

“That requirement is there for a reason. It’s there because of the harm they cause to the local community. So it’s something we feel they should continue to do, but it’s certainly not something they should receive sponsorship accolades for,” Samardzija said.

Andrew Lloyd, the president of the Community Clubs Victoria, questioned why the council was involved in social policy. The peak body for gaming venues is preparing legal advice to challenge the policy, wary that it could be adopted by other councils.

“This is being politicised unfairly and unjustly. What this is doing is actually dividing people and it’s not good. Council should be leading by example and helping with things, not actually trying to divide people and impose things on them that are really draconian,” Lloyd said.

One large sporting club in Monash, which did not wish to be named, said the policy would lead to higher membership fees.

“The financial implications of this policy are very concerning for us – like most senior sporting clubs we have local pubs and clubs as longtime sponsors, contributing considerable sums of money every year,” a club spokesman said.

The club, which has a sponsorship deal with a gaming venue, said its finances were still recovering from the pandemic when sport was cancelled.

“Against this backdrop we now have council, as our landlord, attempting to dictate who can and cannot sponsor our club – this apparently extends to us simply displaying a pub or club’s logo as recognition in internal communications with members,” the spokesperson said.

Samardzija said clubs would be given up to four years to adapt to the new policy and the council could help them find new sponsors if necessary.

“Some clubs are more concerned that others and others are more reliant on financial support from gambling venues than others” Samardzija said.


Henry Belot

The GuardianTramp

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