Gambling: Betting ads 'following tobacco's playbook'

By Arvind Hickman and Lindsay Bennett | 5 July 2016
Are betting ads normalising gambling with sport? This still was taken from William Hill's 'It's Your Call' spot that ran in 2015.

Advertising experts have raised concerns that the content of gambling ads specifically targets a young male demographic and normalises betting as part of Australia’s ‘mateship’ culture.

This places doubts that gambling ads would adhere to the AANA’s Wagering Advertising Marketing & Communication Code, which came into effect this month.

Under the code, gambling ads cannot target minors, show people placing a bet while drinking or link gambling with “sexual success or enhanced attractiveness”.

Loud Communications CEO, Lorraine Jokovic, told AdNews, “It’s all about perpetuating Aussie bloke culture. The ads will feature blue collar workers who are stereotypically 'blokey' or tradesmen because companies know they are interested in sports in this country.”

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation research manager Tony Phillips said sports betting companies use fun social settings and humour to normalise the activity.

“Sports betting advertising often features men standing together, drinking and watching a sporting match. It can be dangerous if they are competing with each other and egging each other on,” he said.

The Greens are currently campaigning to end the barrage of sports betting. The political party has an issue with both the amount of advertising and the content of the ads, which Greens leader Richard Di Natale likens to tobacco advertising.

“That appeal to macho culture is straight out of the tobacco industry playbook. They are using a lot of the same tactics ... it’s targeting your kids, it’s often sexist and designed with the intent of creating the problem gamblers of tomorrow,” he said.

Deakin University associate professor Samantha Thomas, who has reseached the effect of betting ads on children, agreed we are now seeing the same normalisation trajectory that was seen with tobacco, with further parallels that can be drawn in the role of advertising.

“Tobacco [brands] used the same strategy in terms of aligning themselves with sport. Some of the first things we saw were brand awareness with kids who were able to name tobacco brands and associate them with certain teams,” she said.

Sportsbet's general manager of media and sponsorship Luke Waldren told AdNews the betting company goes to great lengths to prevent underage viewers from seeing its content, such as digital age-gating and adhering to broadcast laws on ad placement.

“We, like our competitors, are concerned that any of our content could slip through to minor cohorts. It’s never the intention,” he said.

Check out the rest of our special investigation into sports betting ads. This includes the remarkable rise of sports betting advertising, thoughts about the introduction of the AANA wagering code and why the Western Bulldogs AFL club has stopped accepting betting sponsorship.

This article first appeared in AdNews in print. Click here to subscribe to the AdNews magazine or read the iPad edition here.

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