Lobbyist casts doubts government will ban gambling ads to pass media reforms

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 16 March 2017
Senator Nick Xenophon.

A lobbyist has cast doubt over reports the government would be willing to slash sports gambling advertising in order to push through the media reforms.

A report in Fairfax Media today indicated the government is open to slashing the amount of gambling ads during live sport for three Nick Xenophon Team senators top back communications minister Mitch Fifield's media reform package.

Gaining Xeonphon's support would overcome one of two major hurdles for the beleaguered bill, which must also sway Pauline Hanson's One Nation party.

But a Canberra lobbyist monitoring developments, who spoke to AdNews on the condition of anonymity, says it is unlikely the media reform package is important enough to risk the wrath of TV networks, which stand to lose about $120 million from gambling ads.

“Senator Xenophon has asked on a number of occasions during different sorts of negotiations on different polices to consider this gambling ban,” the lobbyist says.

“One of the problems is that it is very hard to implement because the racing industry needs the gambling ads during the sporting events whereas some people would argue that cricket and football, particularly, it's a bit overdone.

“There's a lot of work being done in Canberra to see how one would actually do it but senator Xenopohon wants a blanket ban and that's not going to happen.”

In an exclusive investigation into sports gambling advertising last year, AdNews revealed that the gambling industry spent about $236 million on ads in 2015, according to Standard Media Index figures. This figure had grown by 160% since 2011 and the majority of this was on sports betting.

It is among the fastest growing categories in advertising and one of the largest funders of sports and sports broadcasting in the country.

Gambling ads are restricted to 10% of total spots during a match, which equates to around seven or eight ads per match.

To date, the commercial networks have been fiercely opposed to restricting gambling advertising and it is doubtful that offering the sweetener of abolishing TV licence fees would alter this position, as reported in Fairfax Media.

“This is speculation, but if you are going to concede a gambling thing to senator Xenophon, I think the government would do it on a much more important policy matter than media ownership, where there's only about three people in the country who give a damn,” another lobbyists adds.

“I think if I were a TV mogul I would prefer to say, 'I think I'll keep the ads, thank you very much'.”

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