L to R: Associate professor Samantha Thomas, Melbourne Victory chief Ian Robson, AFL Players Association's Brett Johnson, forum host Waleed Aly, sports broadcaster Tiffany Cherry, RGAW champion Brent Guerra, Sportsbet head of responsible gambling Bronte Campbell, RGAW champion Jake Newstadt, photo: Paul Jeffers
With 10 minutes of an average AFL broadcast taken up with gambling advertising, as well as billboards promoting sports betting and signage at train stations to and from the game, experts are wondering if we're loving the odds more than the game.
The proliferation of gambling advertising and the way it's taken over our favourite weekend pastime was on the agenda for a panel of prominent Victorians launching Responsible Gambling Awareness Week at the Melbourne Cricket Ground this week.
Disentangling our favourite weekend pastime from betting
The panel, including AFL premiership medal holder and former gambler Brent Guerra, Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon and Melbourne Victory chief Ian Robson, debated the issue of sport and gambling in the modern age.
Facilitated by Walkley Award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author and academic Waleed Aly, the forum panel also included leading youth psychologist Dr Michael Carr Gregg, Deakin University Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, the AFL Players Association's Brett Johnson, sports broadcaster Tiffany Cherry and Sportsbet head of responsible gambling Bronte Campbell.
Exploring the idea of whether gambling has become so entangled in our sport that it's having unintended consequences for fans of all ages, the forum looked at how advertising and new products have changed the face of gambling.
Former AFL champion Brent Guerra told a packed audience that he would do anything to take back the pain and hurt his gambling inflicted on his family.
'I would give up a premiership medal to have never gambled,' he said.
'It so hard to avoid [gambling promotion], it's in your face every day, you can never escape it.'
Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said it was up to the sporting clubs to take a leadership role to address the promotion of gambling.
'There are definite parallels with the way alcohol and tobacco was once advertised and we need to learn from that.
'The difference is, you can gamble responsibly but you still need to be aware of those who are more vulnerable and protect them,' he said.
'I would give up a premiership medal to have never gambled.'
Deakin University Associate Professor Samantha Thomas said addressing the issue would take action on four fronts.
'The wagering industry, sports organisations, broadcasters and government all have a role to play,' she said.
Like nuclear disarmament, everyone's got to do it or it won't work
Melbourne Victory chief Ian Robson said sporting clubs need to take a stand and forego the dollars if that's what it takes to protect the community by curbing the amount of gambling advertising.
'This is a much broader issue than dollars,' he said.
'We need to listen to the powerful stories [of gambling harm], stare down the dollars and do what's right for the kids.'
Bronte Campbell, head of responsible gambling at Sportsbet told the panel his organisation was committed to being part of the solution.
'We do not want to profit from gamblers with problems, we only want recreational punters.
'We have invested $1.5 million in a new campaign to promote our "take a break" app, which allows punters to lock themselves out of their accounts if they feel they need to,' he said.
Betting language entrenched in commentary
AFL broadcaster Tiffany Cherry told the audience about having to learn the language of gambling to fit in with the rest of the commentary team.
'I had to learn the lingo or I just didn't fit in,' she said.
The sports journalist said broadcasters need to get the balance right.
'Gambling is legal but we need to make sure the promotion doesn't go overboard.
'Responsible gambling shouldn't be a throwaway line at the end of the ads. The companies need to look at what they're doing and actually be responsible in their provision of the product,' she said.
'We need to listen to the powerful stories, stare down the dollars and do what's right for the kids.'
Samantha Thomas said for real change to happen, the community needs to take a comprehensive approach.
'It's much more than "take a break". On television and in stadiums there are two very easy things that will make a real difference.
'Closing the loopholes that allow ads to be shown in children's viewing hours while watching sport and removing signage from around the sports grounds where kids will see it,' she said.
Victoria leading the way
Melbourne Victory chief Ian Robson closed the forum on a positive note. He pointed out that having an open dialogue, and with seven of the country's biggest clubs signing the responsible gambling charter and pledging to keep kids and betting apart, Victoria is again leading the way.
'This state has a history of world-leading practice in public health by being the first to enact seat belt laws.
'If we have the will, if we come together empowered to bring about change, we can do this,' he said.
Story update: Nine Victorian AFL clubs have now signed the responsible gambling charter. Read in the April 2016 edition about how nine out of 10 AFL clubs prefer responsible gambling.