"... the real story on gambling reform will unfold when a future government has the wherewithal to take on the big boys from the poker machine lobby."The furore around sports betting is understandable and justified. Advertising of this product is in-your-face and is central to creating a "gamblified" popular culture where the bookies can anticipate a whole new generation of young people -- especially young men -- who think gambling and sport are natural partners. The likely result of this is a tsunami of gambling problems, facilitated by technological convergence and hyper-active marketing. Exposure is a major risk factor, and exposure to this culture is now intense. Limiting advertising is a sound precautionary move. Whether the ALP can accept this logic, and act effectively on this issue, is another question. However, sports betting is, as Four Corners host Kerry O’Brien remarked on Monday’s program, a pimple on the backside of Australia's gambling industry. It's worth perhaps $500 million a year in net revenue, compared with the poker machine industry’s $10 billion-plus. Poker machines are ubiquitous and highly accessible, and that's why they're the overwhelming cause of gambling problems in Australia. Removing live odds from sports broadcasts is a step forward for those who are concerned about gambling’s impact on both sport and the next generation. Removing gambling ads altogether (at least for some of the evening) would be a major move forward, at least for this particular manifestation of the gambling industry’s endless quest for your money. As it happens, it's Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, when the gambling industry joins forces with state government and some community groups to advocate for people to take responsibility for their gambling and to seek help if they do have a problem. "Partners" for this campaign include the Australian Hotels Association, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (Woolworths' poker machine subsidiary), casino owner Crown, Tabcorp and Tattersall's -- a who's who of Australia's biggest gambling operators. Thus, state governments and the gambling lobby collude to produce a doctrine ("responsible gambling") that removes dangerous products like poker machines from the spotlight. Rather, in their argument, it's an individual's duty to "gamble responsibly". Problem gamblers are the issue, not an ineffectively regulated problem industry. With sports betting we've been provoked into action by relentless and unavoidably infuriating self-promotion, particularly by one particular bookie. The poker machine lobby is far more expert at image building, and its lobbying expertise is second to none. It needs to be, because the pokies are still the biggest game in town, by a country mile. They still cause three-quarters of Australia's gambling problems, take most of the money, and exercise extraordinary influence on state and federal governments. Maybe the bookies' live odds promotions, and even their TV ads, will be a sacrificial offering. It may even be that once there has been real action on reigning in one aspect of this burgeoning business, there will be action on other fronts. However, the real story on gambling reform will unfold when a future government has the wherewithal to take on the big boys from the poker machine lobby.
The proposals to limit (but not ban) sports betting ads
There are at least five proposals to limit TV advertising on sports betting -- but none of them will ban Tom Waterhouse completely, writes Dr Charles Livingstone from Monash's School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.