Gambling advertising ban recommended for Australia

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 28 June 2023

Broadcasters have called "extreme" a recommendation by a parliamentary inquiry to ban gambling advertising which in Australia amounts to $300 million a year, more than half of it on television. 

The federal parliamentary committee has released the findings of its inquiry into the harm posed by online gambling, including a recommended of a phased ban over three years on advertising urging gamblers to place bets.

Free TV, representing commercial television, and Commercial Radio and Audio, with 260 radio broadcasters, are concerned.

The Australian commercial radio industry says radio has been unfairly treated and Free TV says the inquiry is taking an "extreme approach". 

Advertising related to sports betting/wagering has been a huge growth category for Australian media companies over the last decade, according to market analysts.

However, the political climate appears ripe to support a ban. Both the Labor government and the Coalition opposition are both making public comments on tightening the volume of gambling advertising on television. 

And Tabcorp, Australia's largest gambling company, employing more than 5,000 people, says gambling advertising should be  banned on free-to-air TV between 6.30am and 8.30pm unless it's during dedicated racing programming.

The parliamentary committee says people feel they're inundated with gambling advertising and they are very concerned that children are exposed regularly to ads for sports betting. 

"Australians lose the most to online gambling because we have a weak and fragmented regulatory framework, which places all the onus for reducing harm onto the person who gambles," inquiry report says. 

Committee chair Peta Murphy says a comprehensive ban on all gambling advertising on all media – broadcast and online -- that leaves no room for circumvention, is needed.

"Partial bans on gambling advertising do not work," she said.

Free TV called for a measured response to the recommendations of the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

The industry body warns that gambling advertising bans will undermine the sustainability of commercial television services.

“The Committee’s proposed ban is based on a fundamentally flawed premise that the advertising market is some kind of magic pudding," says Bridget Fair, Free TV CEO.

But reductions in advertising revenue in the current economic and competitive environment can only result in less funding for Australian content.

“While we appreciate that there are concerns in the community regarding the volume of gambling ads, kneejerk moves to implement outright bans will ultimately hurt viewers and the television services they love," she says.

Commercial television spends more than $1.5 billion on Australian content every year, providing audiences with more than 25,000 hours of free local trusted news, Australian drama and entertainment, coverage of national emergencies and live and free sport.

“Many of the sports broadcasting deals have been agreed to beyond the three year phase out period for advertising," she says.

“Any further restrictions on gambling advertising must be offset by reductions in the regulatory burdens on commercial broadcasters. In particular, removing spectrum fees which are completely out-of-step with other countries that have already abolished such fees decades ago.”

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