Gambling: Here's why the Western Bulldogs turn away betting dollars

In the final part of our special report into gambling advertising, we look at an AFL club that is bucking the trend of accepting lucrative sports betting sponsorship as well as concerns about sports betting marketing following the tobacco playbook.

Sports bodies receive millions of dollars in investment from betting partners, but its a dynamic that doesn’t sit well with many.

In May, the NRL signed a five-year $60 million deal with Sportsbet to be rugby league’s official betting partner. In AFL, James Packer’s Crownbet is the official partner in a similarly lucrative deal.

The sums of money involved place sports bodies and clubs in a bind – how to balance community concerns with a healthy bank account.

“[Sports clubs] have an ethical responsibility to recognise this is a product that is targeting young kids and will create a generation of problem gamblers,” Australian Greens Party leader Richard Di Natale told AdNews.

Administrators argue that working closely with a sports betting partner helps them monitor betting irregularities, upholding the integrity of the sport.

Although this might sound like a strange argument to outsiders, Western Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon told AdNews the co-operation of the agencies to ensure compliance of rules by players and officials on betting is perfectly legitimate.

The Western Bulldogs is one of nine AFL clubs to sign up to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s responsible gambling charter, which commits clubs to walk away from sports betting sponsorships.

As the Bulldogs is a funding recipient of the AFL, it is under pressure to take all reasonable steps to maximise revenue, which makes the decision to walk away from sponsorship opportunities difficult.

“On the other hand, if we were a club which took sponsorship willy-nilly from tobacco companies and their ilk, that would itself affect our brand and marketability with both supporters and more reputable corporate partners. So it’s a balance,” Gordon explained.

“At a club level, I am comfortable with where we are. At an industry level, I’m not sure we’ve got the balance right yet on sports betting.”

Gordon’s position has been hardened by interaction with young fans. He recalls a conversation with a six-year-old boy over footy tipping and was amazed by his ability to recall betting odds for four games in one weekend, including the points margin for each-way bets.

“Now, that kid is a smart kid from a great family and I’m sure he’s not at risk. But if you ever needed an example of advertising stated to be directed at adults also reaching children, well, there he is,” Gordon said.

Gordon would like to see all betting references removed from child-friendly hours, a voluntary code that requires commentators not to infuse betting talk in discussions about the sport, and more balanced promotion of responsible gambling messages.

Have you seen the rest of our special investigation into sports betting ads? Check out the remarkable rise of sports betting advertising, which has plenty of stats and conjecture over the fastest growing category in advertising.

We also have views on the introduction of the AANA wagering code and some serious concerns about sports betting 'following tobacco's playbook'.

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