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LIVE GAMBLING ODDS ADVERTISING DURING TELEVISED FOOTY GAMES AND FOOTY SHOWS

The third AFL governance issue attended to in this chapter is the endorse- ment and promotion of live gambling odds through television advertising just prior to, during and after the games witnessed even during football programmes (e.g. Channel 9's Footy Show and Sunday Footy Show). Gambling of course is not limited to the AFL but the point here is to address the manner in which live-odds advertising has grown within the game, appearing as an integral part of football particularly when it forms part of the game commentary. Andrew Demetriou during the course of sev- eral 2013 media interviews repeatedly defended the League's continued relationship with licensed betting agencies. His reasoning is summarised twofold: firstly, to minimise internal to the league betting on games and, secondly, to prevent match fixing by the involvement of unscrupulous par- ties. Demetriou contends that the AFL is involved with betting agencies through 'legal arrangements' 'not for the revenue' but for 'the access to information' (i.e. betting transactions) because he says 'that's how we catch betting cheats who bet on football' (Demetriou, 21 May, 2013 ABC, Lateline). Unpacking this we see that his argument is to endorse the promo- tion of gambling as an acceptable practice in order to deter or catch league players and league officials gambling on games. This reasoning is circular. At best it is a very weak argument, especially when the health cost to society from gambling addiction is so great. It has the added effect of send- ing mixed messages, since gambling on football by any member of the play- ing or coaching fraternity within or associated with the AFL is prohibited and heavily sanctioned. Yet the only admonishment for anyone else exposed to the live odds gambling advertising comes pursuant to the recent added obligatory warning, 'gamble responsibly!'

Notwithstanding the self-regulated changes the AFL has made to limit broadcasting with the added promise to cooperate should further future regulatory changes be required, the AFL is negligent and acting irresponsi- bly on this matter. Firstly, it is not fair to the children and parents who watch football on television to be exposed to the incessant barrage of gam- bling advertisements, let alone the effect upon existing gambling addicts whose endeavours to quit gambling are hampered by the barrage of televised live-odds. Secondly, in terms of the AFL's cultural influence on the wider society, it contributes to fuelling the formative attitudes that gambling is part of the game and therefore harmless and fun. Problem gambling is a serious social health problem. Gambling in its various forms is widespread in society and access to betting agencies has never been easier than it is today via the internet and mobile phone apps. Television adver- tisements 'portray gambling as a glamorous lifestyle, filled with excitement, promoting a sense of fantasy' (Derevensky, Sklar, Gupta, & Messerlian, 2009). Researchers Monaghan, Derevensky, and Sklar (2008, pp. 252-274) similarly make the point that continued exposure to gambling advertise- ments leads to its normalisation, to the perception that it is an 'acceptable, harmless, and credible activity' especially when the 'advertising forms part of the game commentary'. They go on to suggest that gambling is perni- cious because it is 'presented as an alternative to hard work and sensible investing, and instead promotes luck, instant gratification, and entertain- ment' (Monaghan et al., 2008, p. 261). Research by Welte, Barnes, Tidwell, and Hoffman (2011) into problem gambling over the lifespan demonstrates that 'gambling involvement is prevalent by middle adolescence, it increases through the 20s'. The findings substantiate the researchers' recommenda- tions that '[g]iven the persistence of frequent gambling and problem gam- bling through adulthood, increased prevention and intervention efforts are warranted' (Welte et al., 2011, p. 54).

Two recent examples are AFL champion players, Brendan Fevola and

David Schwarz, who both made public disclosures regarding the extent to which their own lives were ruined for long periods due to their respective gambling addictions. These are not isolated cases, for there have been many others over the years suffering the same fate. To reiterate, the neces- sary components of any practice with internal goods and standards of excellence are the virtues of justice, courage and honesty (MacIntyre, 2013). The efforts of the players to achieve and even extend the standards of excellence are intelligible and legitimate only within the context of cer- tain shared purposes and acceptable means in the sport practice community (Hemphill, 2009). If gambling is construed as illegitimate for players, club and other AFL officials, then its endorsement and promotion of gambling contravenes its own standards of excellence and internal goods. These stan- dards are meant to provide a framework for judging when an individual action is regarded as acceptable, as opposed to when it is 'cheating or unsporting'. The AFL by endorsing gambling contravenes its own zero- tolerance standards. Hence the AFL needs to act accordingly and ensure it does not foster or contribute to creating problem gambling.

Public pressure is also evident towards this concern. The Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, chaired by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, met in Sydney on March 27, 2013 to examine the link between sport and gambling and to scrutinise the parties involved, including betting companies, Sportsbet and Betfair. At the inquiry Sportsbet chief executive Cormac Barry made the claim that 'the number of Australians betting on sport is not increasing'. He went on to claim that 'Sports betting is very much a niche pursuit and … no matter what the advertising does that will always be the case' (Vincent, 2013). First of all Barry's comment is not con- sistent with research findings in this area. Add to this concern Barry's reiteration of the claim that 'we are seeing a battle for market share, but we are not seeing a process where the number of people betting on sport is increasing' (Vincent, 2013). In recent years sport betting has become one of the most rapid growing industries worldwide, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers (Monaghan et al., 2008). Barry's comments are also quite striking, for why else would he use advertising to promote his pro- ducts? Could it only be for an increase in market share? Given the growing number of communication technologies now available and their adoption by Barry's betting company, among others, it is natural to suspect that the advertising is employed to expand the market. The general concern then is to consider the harm caused by live-odds gambling when broadcast during AFL games and football shows during hours most likely to influence children.

AFL games are broadcast during hours accessible to children. Wartella (1984, pp. 171-183) reported on the cognitive and affective factors of tele- vision advertising's influence on children based on the persuasive intent of commercials and children's ability to employ cognitive defences to assess or resist commercial appeals. The findings demonstrate that intensity of expo- sure can change behaviour even overriding defences that develop as the child grows. Sportsbet in particular advertises that it has over 230 markets on any game of football, which include various exotic type betting arrange- ments. Having mobile phone apps with the added service of updates sent directly to one's phone makes betting a spontaneous or impulse realisable opportunity. It is an alluring temptation for costly entertainment.

Betting companies now are prominent club sponsors. For example, Centrebet is a major sponsor of the St Kilda Football club and Sportsbet is one of the major sponsors of Channel 9's Footy Show (the Show Host is James Brayshaw who is also the Chairman of the North Melbourne Football Club) and Sunday Footy Show. Research affirms the notion that corporate sponsorship is an effective form of indirect advertising. Corporate sponsorship 'shapes attitudes by glamorising products, builds public goodwill towards the company, and associates potentially harmful products with healthy positive images, in addition to diminishing the effec- tiveness of health-promotion programmes, especially those aimed at youth' (Monaghan et al., 2008, p. 259). Brand recognition is becoming quite pro- minent particularly among young men. Research conducted by Welte et al. (2011, p. 55) demonstrated that 'males have high rates of gambling at a younger age than females', though 'in the 20s and after, gambling rates (for both genders) are similar'. These findings echo the findings of Monaghan et al. (2008), which also provide statistics related to the rapid growth of the gambling industry worldwide. Though football is predominantly a male contact sport we are seeing increasing numbers of females playing football. We are also seeing an increase in females betting. For these reasons the AFL must do more to further limit if not completely banning television advertising of live odds betting before, during, and after televised games and associated football programmes broadcast during hours accessible to children.

 
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