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Gambling harm concerns due to ad blitzes during COVID pandemic

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is concerned gambling advertising is leading to increased gambling harm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alliance Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello, said reports of eye-watering profits for sports gambling companies and data analysis of bank transactions by NAB both suggested people were wagering more than ever during the pandemic.

“It’s no wonder when you take note of how our screens and radio airwaves have been absolutely saturated with gambling ads,” he said. “We are watching the news more than ever and gambling ads are peppered throughout the bulletin. Family-friendly shows seem to have also been targeted.

“The gambling industry is one that still has money to spend on advertising, thanks to raking in millions from gambling harm, so it has been in a position to negotiate great deals with broadcasters.

“The fact Victoria is in a declared State of Disaster but is allowing horse and greyhound racing to continue tells you everything you need to know about how influential the gambling industry is when it comes to Australian politics. Premier Daniel Andrews has shut down hundreds of industries, yet one that exists for the sole purpose of supporting the gambling industry is allowed to continue. It’s appalling to see an industry associated with such tremendous harm being given a special pass.”

Rev Costello said reports of increased demand for gambling addiction treatment services also indicated gambling harm was spiking for many people during the pandemic.

“As an addictive product, gambling can be sought out by people to self-soothe during times of stress,” he said. “Gambling is also known to increase during economic crises. We haven’t seen a single preventative government health message to counter the avalanche of wagering advertising hitting our television screens or the wave of harm likely to follow.

“It is time the Federal Government took action and banned gambling ads during this pandemic as a preventative public health measure. Gambling harm is a serious public health issue, with connections to other concerns such as mental ill-health, family violence and homelessness.”

Rev Costello said the Alliance was running an #EndGamblingAds campaign to both assist adults who experience gambling harm and also protect children from exposure to a dangerous, adult product.

“Tobacco advertising was banned a long time ago because it was acknowledged it was not only promoting an unhealthy product, but also because it normalised smoking and made it appealing to children. The same principles apply to gambling advertising,” he said.

“Constant gambling advertising promoting all sorts of ‘bonus bets’ is undoubtedly triggering some people to gamble again, or gamble more, perhaps with savings made during lockdowns, or even worse -- with superannuation withdrawals, as has been reported.

“We would be shocked to see a tobacco ad during football and cricket these days because we know children watch these games and naturally want to emulate their heroes and support their sponsors. 

We’ve reached a stage where one in three high school students report they have already gambled. That’s especially disturbing when you consider that sports wagering is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia, doubling in the five years to 2017-2018, with losses now exceeding more than $1 billion annually. 

“We must nip this in the bud right now, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is to end gambling advertising. Other countries have done so, including Italy, because they recognise the harm gambling does, and that it is completely inappropriate to promote it. It’s time Australia did the right thing too.”

Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe  on 0491 209 436 or [email protected]

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