AFL Gambling Ads Australia: Tabcorp’s Self-Regulation Failure

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Ryan White
by Ryan White
Tabcorp admits to premature AFL gambling ads

As the number of Australian online casinos surges, the battle against problem gambling faces significant hurdles. Tabcorp, the nation’s leading gambling company, has been found exposing viewers to over 70 gambling ads on free-to-air television before the recommended 8:30 p.m. watershed. The company admitted to violating its policy and attributed the mishap to an operator error. However, industry analysts argue that regulatory gaps are the primary issue and call for universal standards better to protect public health from the fallout of problem gambling.

Round One Advertisements

The recent AFL match between Brisbane and Carlton was overshadowed by controversy surrounding its advertising. Tabcorp ads appeared on digital billboards within Gabba Stadium just minutes into the game, which started before 8:30 p.m. Although these ads were not regular screen interruptions, their placement was deemed unethical, contradicting Tabcorp’s commitment to reducing gambling adverts to safeguard vulnerable groups.

In March 2023, Tabcorp’s then-CEO, Adam Rytenskild, emphasized the importance of families enjoying live sports without a barrage of gambling commercials. This recent breach highlights a significant setback in that commitment.

Australia gambling ads AFL

Tabcorp Admits To Violating Regulatory Ad Policy

Tabcorp’s spokesperson admitted that airing ads before the designated time was a misstep, acknowledging a breach of their promise to regulate gambling ads and a direct violation of the legal ban on airing ads between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Despite this admission, the incident was taken seriously by gambling market regulators at all levels.

Challenges of Self-regulation

The incident raises questions about self-regulation, as Tabcorp circumvented direct legal breaches by strategically using in-stadium billboards to place ads in view of TV cameras. This move suggests that companies like Tabcorp set their own rules, prioritizing profit over community well-being, which risks exacerbating gambling addiction by over-marketing.

Viable Solutions

Samantha Thomas, a gambling researcher at Deakin University, warns that such advertising creates the impression that gambling is integral to the game, especially for young people. She urges the government to restrict the gambling industry’s promotional channels to protect children and young people.

Despite various state-level legislative efforts, ambiguities remain, and national-level solutions are crucial. Some parties have taken steps to combat problem gambling, like the Geelong Cats banning gambling ads from their stadium and the Sydney Swans committing to a similar ban starting in 2021. However, these efforts are undermined by the AFL’s acceptance of sports bets and clubs’ sponsorship agreements with companies like Tabcorp.

The Impact of Gambling Ads on Society

The proliferation of gambling ads not only affects individuals struggling with addiction but also has broader societal implications. Research indicates that constant exposure to gambling promotions can normalize gambling behavior, leading to increased participation rates and, consequently, a rise in problem gambling incidents. This normalization extends beyond the adult population, affecting young people who are more impressionable and susceptible to developing harmful gambling habits.

Addressing the Issue Through Education and Awareness

While regulatory measures are essential, education and awareness play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of gambling ads. Public awareness campaigns aimed at highlighting the risks associated with gambling and the importance of responsible gambling practices can help individuals make informed decisions. Furthermore, educating parents and guardians about the signs of problem gambling and the influence of advertising can empower them to protect their children from the potential harms of gambling.

Final Thoughts

Australia’s government, corporations, and community organizations aim to eradicate compulsive gambling, but their efforts have been insufficient. Tabcorp’s recent advertising fiasco serves as a wake-up call for more effective strategies to curb aggressive gambling promotions, highlighting the need for better protection for Australians against such pitfalls. As the conversation around gambling ads continues to evolve, it is crucial to strike a balance between the interests of the gambling industry and the well-being of the community.

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