NRL clubs move to distance themselves from gambling industry

  • Bulldogs and Rabbitohs to prohibit betting promotions
  • Gambling sponsorship to be removed from all club apparel

The NRL’s Canterbury and South Sydney have joined a cohort of sports clubs pledging to refuse money from betting agencies, in a move to distance themselves from the gambling industry.

Rugby league is the fifth code to sign up to the New South Wales government’s Reclaim the Game program, which aims to help fans experience sport without the influence of betting advertising and sponsorship.

Already nine clubs across the AFL, basketball, cricket and football to have committed to “challenge the idea that betting is a normal part of sport”, with the Sydney Swans, the Sydney Kings, the Sydney Sixers and Thunder and the Western Sydney Wanderers and Macarthur FC among the signatories.

Now the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs have announced they too will prohibit betting promotions on ground signage and big screens and removing sponsorship from all club apparel.

Education is another key element of the initiative, with players to add their voice to address the normalisation of gambling in Australia – according to the NSW government, more than half of adults in the state gamble each year.

Overall the Australian gambling market was in 2019 estimated to be worth more than $225bn, while online gambling rose sharply during the pandemic.

“Our community plays such a big role in our club, and we felt that this is a campaign we can support to reduce community exposure to sports betting advertising,” said Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly.

“Research shows there are long-term effects on families when sports betting causes gambling harm in the community and we feel the Reclaim the Game message is a positive for the fans and families that support our club and our sport.”

Bulldogs chief executive, Aaron Warburton, said supporters should be able to attend a match “without the constant advertising from sports betting companies”.

Both clubs join the initiative independently of the NRL, which holds a lucrative contract with Sportsbet and is saturated with betting advertising.

“Online sports betting is the fastest growing form of gambling and the NRL is the most popular sport to bet on in NSW,” said Natalie Wright, the director of the NSW government’s office of responsible gambling.

“The NRL fan base is huge and gambling advertising is everywhere which means if you’re a supporter you can’t avoid seeing it. Sports betting companies know that visibility works, which is why they invest so much in advertising on the most popular code in NSW.”


Emma Kemp

The GuardianTramp

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