Children Grow Up Thinking Gambling Is Part of the AFL

Australian codes claim that sponsorships from sports betting companies are critical for keeping premier sports alive in the country. At the same time, the heavy advertising of these sponsorships inevitably ties gambling to sports, with special emphasis on the Australian Football League (AFL). In turn, children grow up normalizing gambling, thinking it goes hand in hand with their favorite sport. At the same time, 37% of fans are worried about the prevalence of sports betting ads in the AFL.

Concerned Sports Clubs Are Taking Action

A few years ago, tobacco companies were the main sponsors of sports. Once the damaging effects of tobacco were fully acknowledged and action was taken against cigarette advertising, the sponsorships stopped. Three decades later, the gambling industry has replaced tobacco companies in their sponsorship campaigns. 

As expected, the controversy started to engage concerned sports clubs and associations in special anti-sports betting sponsorships programs and campaigns raising awareness of the perils of betting for vulnerable categories. One of them is the Love the Game program joined by Victoria’s ten AFL teams, along with 650+ other professional and community clubs covering all codes. All clubs part of the program has stopped accepting sports betting sponsorships, sending out a powerful message. The program also aims to educate young adults on how to use their critical thinking about sports betting and how to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon and its risks.

Why Is This a Hot Topic?

Young adults who have spent their childhood watching ongoing sports betting ads while rooting for their favorite AFL teams are more likely to embark on gambling journeys as soon as they turn the legal age needed to do it. AFL Club apps that many children have on their smartphones have the latest odds popping up first when looking up simple information such as the starting time of a game or the teams. This has helped children get acquainted with the language of betting odds from a young age.

Unfortunately, the same children bombarded with the sports betting culture are unaware of the associated gambling risks that range from emotional distress to study and work difficulties, money hardship, and family conflicts. Betting on sports is considered a high-risk activity, especially in the context of zero limitations concerning the number or size of bets one can place. The existence of credit cards that enable bettors to wager more than they can actually afford and the simplicity of placing bets on a 24-hour basis using mobile devices all make sports betting a highly appealing activity.

Who Protects Gambling Intertwined With Sports

AFL’s chief executive Gillon McLachlan has a long eight-year legacy of managing Australia’s premier sporting code, with special emphasis on the Covid-19 pandemic hardships and the way he managed to keep millions of fans happy amid the lockdowns. However, his legacy is also overshadowed by his decision to renew a $10 million Crownbet sponsorship deal twice. Former AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou joined the Crown Resorts board, smoothing the first deal and turning Crown into a major gambling sponsor for AFL. Crownbet later became Beteasy and was later on taken over by Sportsbet.

At the moment, the AFL is enjoying a Sportsbet Brownlow medal as well as a Sportsbet grand final. Inevitably, the current generation of sports-loving children is raised thinking constantly, thinking gambling is inextricably connected to the game. McLachlan’s decision to hold on to the sponsorship has already brought the AFL nearly $100m indirect revenue. Plus, a huge number of foreign betting agencies were sold television rights for their advertisements across all Australian channels, with a single exception: Geelong.

Sportsbet is currently owned by Flutter Entertainment, the largest online gambling company on the planet with an impressive market capitalization of $29.5 billion. The company’s 2021 results presented this March showed that Flutter owned half of the country’s online gambling market, attracting 1.1 million regular gamblers on a monthly basis. Their collective Sportsbet loss in 2021 was $2.3 billion. However, last December, the company stated it would remain committed to responsible gambling while implementing a £500 ($663) monthly deposit limit for bettors under 25 as a means of encouraging sensible spending habits. Flutter also runs the Affordability Triple Step Approach that relies on advanced online monitoring technology to observe potentially risky client behaviors. Sportsbet is also the National Rugby League’s official gambling partner. British-owned Bet 365 is the official sponsor of Cricket Australia.

It’s interesting to see what the future holds for sports betting sponsorships in Australia. At the moment, the prime minister and the minister of communications are not considering putting a ban on these sponsorships. Nonetheless, Australians keep winning the world record for gambling losses per capita year after year. In opposition, Italy and Spain decided to ban gambling sponsorship of all sporting clubs, including soccer. Can quality sports only exist if televised betting sponsorships exist? That is the big question.

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