Sportsbet’s Advertising Spend Fuels Calls for Blanket Ban

Gambling advertising money is among hot topics in Australia again, after Sportsbet, a sports betting brand owned by Flutter Entertainment, revealed it was among the top advertisers in the country in 2020.

Millions on Gambling Ads

An investor presentation held by Flutter Wednesday revealed Sportsbet spent AU$139 million ($101.5 million) on advertising and sponsorship in 2020, ranking among the top five spenders in the country and raising questions whether tougher rules to curb gambling advertising are needed. To make matters worse, the parent company outlined its brand, which is the largest Australian bookmaker, outspent its nearest competitor by a staggering 80%.

The revelation just confirmed what proponents of an outright ban on gambling advertising, like the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate Reverend Tim Costello, had stated a long time ago: that the prime-time is saturated with gambling ads, making Australian families unable to protect their children.

In an effort to curb gambling ads, the federal government introduced a ban on betting advertising during live sports broadcasts between 5 AM and 8.30 PM three years ago, but it only forced bookies to move their advertisements to other top-rated prime-time programs, including family programs. Leading the choir of criticism, Costello is adamant Australia should follow the example of Italy and ban gambling advertising, or at the very least outlaw ads in family-friendly prime-time broadcast slots.

Whistle-to-Whistle Ban Ineffective

Indeed, information brought up by Flutter to investors in the lead-up to Saturday’s Australian Football League (AFL) grand final highlighted the inefficiency of the “siren-to-siren,” or whistle-to-whistle, ban: Sportsbet published its odds in the official app of the AFL and across its popular social fantasy league competition, while sponsored segments of TV shows like The Front Bar on Channel 7 featured Sportsbet promotions.

Doug Brown, chief growth officer at Sportsbet, told investors during the webcast that as AFL’s television broadcast partner, the brand is capable of reaching out to a mass audience of sports fans prior to the game, during the major breaks and after the game.

We leverage our partnership with the AFL to promote our same-game multi-products, deeply integrating content to reach footy fans across a number of touch points. (sic)”

Doug Brown, Chief Growth Officer, Sportsbet

According to Sportsbet official data, the annual amount spent by Australians on gambling has been on an upward trend since 2015, with an average growth rate of 10% per year, hitting AU$6.9 billion ($5 billion) in 2020 after a spike in online gambling activity occurred due to the developments around coronavirus.

The lobby group representing online bookmakers in the country, Responsible Wagering Australia, noted the industry remains open to constructive discussions with authorities and broadcasters so that the best “evidence–based rules” can be implemented.

Sportsbet, which recently announced a new responsible gambling campaign, deferred the request for comments from media outlet WAtoday to Responsible Wagering Australia.

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