Young players from Ivanhoe Junior Football Club, photo: Paul Jeffers
How many of you sat through the 2016 AFL and NRL grand finals and commented on the number of gambling ads throughout the match? We suspect, like us, many of you thought to yourself, ‘this has gone too far’.
Since 2012, our research team at Deakin University has been highlighting the impact of wagering marketing on the gambling attitudes and consumption intentions of young people. At the beginning we had a clear warning for the federal government – failing to implement comprehensive regulations to limit the volume and content of wagering marketing, particularly during sport, would have a significant impact on the normalisation of gambling for young people.
Despite significant community attention, federal government policies did very little to curb the promotion of gambling during sport. As then Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy stated in 2013, it was important to ‘balance commercial interests and making sure that gambling ads aren’t being rammed down people’s throats’.
Children tell us gambling is a normal part of sport
Fast forward to our latest research published earlier this year, which shows that 75 per cent of 8 to 16-year-olds think gambling is a normal or common part of sport. Most children tell us they have formed this opinion because of the marketing they see for gambling during sporting matches, which also creates a perception that you have to gamble in order to love the game.
‘It's as if you can't just watch the game, you have to bet to enjoy it.’
As part of our research we spend a lot of time in the community talking to kids and their parents about the marketing of gambling during sport. Two things are clear. First, parents are often unaware of the impact that gambling marketing is having on their children. Second, children who are fans of sport are soaking up the marketing messages they see and hear about gambling.
Detailed recall of gambling brands and ads
Children have a very high recall of the names of gambling companies. We found that 75 per cent of 8 to16-year-olds can name at least one gambling brand, and 25 per cent can name four or more. When we are collecting data for our research at local football clubs and eight-year-olds can name four or five gambling companies without taking a breath, it is clear to us the regulatory framework associated with the marketing of gambling needs to change.
Children who are fans of sport are soaking up the marketing messages.
Our research also shows that children can recall the visuals and plotlines of gambling ads more regularly and in more detail than their parents. When ads come on TV, adults tend to do other things – check their phones, make a cup of tea. But children tend to stay locked in place on the couch. So it’s not surprising they are soaking up messages parents don’t necessarily see.
‘The past month I’ve seen the one (for Sportsbet) where he’s at the art gallery and he looks at crates. And he says, “That’s not art!” And then he goes and picks his multi on the seat and everyone is looking at him, and his wife said he had to go.’
Perhaps of most concern is children’s recall of very specific promotional offers for gambling products. There is a perception that the awareness children have about gambling promotions is only related to the odds. In 2012, when we first started researching the impact of gambling marketing on kids, this was generally the case. Now, young people are able to describe incentives and inducements, including ‘bonus bet’ offers, ‘cash back’ deals and ‘refund’ bets. One of the most concerning aspects of promotions is that they appear to be creating a perception for children that they can’t lose from gambling.
The proliferation of gambling ads in sport started in 2008. This means an eight-year-old watching AFL footy today will have never seen a game without gambling ads. And 18-year-olds, who are legally able to gamble, are the first generation of teenagers who will have been significantly exposed to gambling marketing during sport.
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It’s time for more responsibility
Last week was Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. Rather than placing the emphasis on individual responsibility, it’s time to call for more responsibility from the agencies involved in the promotion of betting, and those whose responsibility it is to ensure young people are not unnecessarily exposed to marketing promotions for betting products.
An eight-year-old watching AFL footy today will have never seen a game without gambling ads.
We call for more responsibility from our major sporting codes such as the Australian Football League and National Rugby League, as well as Australian broadcasters, to consider the potential impact that their sponsorship relationships with betting companies are having on children. It is time for sporting codes and broadcasters to listen to evidence, and work towards a solution that puts the welfare of young people first.
We call for more responsibility from current and former athletes, who young people tell us have an immense influence on positively shaping their attitudes towards gambling, to stop appearing in promotions associated with gambling products.
And we call for more responsibility from governments to implement a comprehensive regulatory framework for gambling industry marketing strategies, including:
- ensuring advertisements for gambling are not played before the watershed (the point in time after which adult content may be broadcast) – with no exceptions
- implementing new advertising regulations to restrict promotions for inducements and incentives, which clearly impact upon young people’s perceptions of the outcomes of gambling.
Preventing gambling harm is a responsibility for everyone in the community.
Failing to act on marketing is a gamble we shouldn’t be taking with our kids.
Parents talk about gambling advertising
Download the report:
Read about how the foundation’s latest campaign is helping kids get back to loving the game, not the odds in this edition of Inside gambling.