February 28, 2024 3 min read


Loophole Enables Australian EPL Fans to See Banned Ads

Broadcasting loophole leads to Australian English Premier League fans being bombarded with offshore gambling ads that should be banned from screens

Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act strictly forbids offshore gambling companies from offering bets and advertising their services to residents.

However, there is a loophole. The Act exempts “accidental or incidental accompaniment to the publication of other matter” from these prohibitions. 

In other words, if a gambling ad is accidental or if it accompanies content that is not prohibited, offshore operators can make use of this escape clause. 

This is exactly what happened when Australian fans of the English Premier League (EPL) were subject to a series of pitch-side advertising boards from Optus Sport

ACMA Investigating the Complaint

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently investigating the complaint made against the company that is at the forefront of football discussion and coverage in Australia and across the globe. 

The complaint was issued by gambling researcher and investigative journalist Jack Kerr. According to the journalist, gambling ads were allegedly displayed nonstop throughout the EPL match between Aston Villa and Manchester City that was broadcast in December via pitch-side billboards.

Kerr explained that interactive gambling companies are one of the most frequently displayed products on pitch-side billboards, further adding that sports clubs usually showcase ads for several betting companies during a single match. 

The respective pitch-side boards are managed by soccer clubs and they can be customized to match a variety of markets.

Optus Sport started broadcasting EPL games in the country in 2016. Recently, the company spent around $600 million to get the lucrative rights until the 2027-28 season. 

At the moment, the streaming service has over 1 million Australian subscribers.

“These Ads Are Neither Incidental Nor Accidental” 

The same complaint that is not under ACMA’s investigation said that the respective ads were “neither incidental nor accidental,“ as defined in the loophole in the Gambling Act. 

Kerr has argued this using their “prominence” which, in his view, clearly proves it. He explained that doubledecker digital billboards used to advertise a product that Australians are not able to access “cannot be considered as ‘incidental’”. “They are there to grab viewers’ attention and lure them in,” he added. 

A spokesperson for Optus Sport said the company was complying with the relevant laws in the country concerning the way it covers “all rights and content.” 

The spokesperson added that the gambling advertising laws “contain exemptions for pitch-side advertising” while adding the company cannot replace the pitch-side ads with virtual ads or other forms of advertising, as it is prohibited by the rights owners to do so. 

Earlier in the month, ACMA announced it banned a dozen more illegal websites, raising the number of issued blocking requests against black market gambling and affiliate sites to 926.

Last March, ACMA asked internet service providers to block additional offshore gambling operators and their affiliates in an attempt to crack down on illegal sites and protect players in the country. 

After finishing her master's in publishing and writing, Melanie began her career as an online editor for a large gaming blog and has now transitioned over towards the iGaming industry. She helps to ensure that our news pieces are written to the highest standard possible under the guidance of senior management.

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