It’s no wonder Foxtel, News Corp Australia and Seven West Media have led the charge into deepening their involvement in the multibillion-dollar gambling industry. It’s a growth industry, one of the few available to the shrinking legacy media. And according to Newsmediaworks, the newspaper industry group charged with giving the businesses owned by Fairfax Media, Kerry Stokes and the Murdoch clan a benign public face, news media is an ideal sector for advertisers to market their wares and services to consumers who like a bet.

In an article published yesterday, Newsmediaworks presented the demographic argument why media should be deeply involved in selling gambling and why advertisers should be interested in buying print media especially:

“News media provides reach to 94 per cent of those who gambled in the last month and readers are more likely to have gambled than non readers. The fit to the target is even more evident when we see that heavy newspaper readers are significantly more likely to be gamblers for each of the betting types analysed — especially for those who placed a TAB bet. Advertisers benefit from the high reach achieved by both print and digital news media, while for newspaper advertising we can also see that gamblers are more engaged than the average newspaper reader.”

Ignoring the losses, Newsmediaworks (which is really the love child of News Corp Australia) headlined its story “Win with news media” and a subhead “94% of gamblers read news media”.

But who wins? In August of last year, Fairfax reported:

“Australian punters lost nearly $23 billion last year, with a 30 per cent growth in sports betting helping to drive a continued rise in annual gambling losses. New Australian Gambling Statistics figures show Australians lost $1241 per head in 2014-15, with poker machines still the biggest cause of punter losses with $11.6 billion lost, an increase of 4.9 per cent.”

Not a mention in the Newsmedia works article of these losses and the damage problem gambling does to families and relationships, and to individuals, with people frequently appearing in courts in connection with charges over stealing, defalcations and fraud by problem gamblers, and the millions of dollars losses they cause to businesses or all sizes.

But as upbeat as the Newsmediaworks message is, there are a few problems in the pitch to advertisers, or potential advertisers. Many know the damage gambling does, and all would know that the $23 billion a year lost in gambling activities is money consumers do not have to spend with them. For example, Woolworths is one of the biggest advertisers in print media in this country, and yet it is also a major hotel owner, with poker machines and TAB, Keno gambling facilities on offer. Tabcorp, Star, Tatts and Crown resorts are all major gambling businesses, as are the various licensed clubs and hotels businesses. They would know the demographics of gamblers better than Newsmedia works and wouldn’t need convincing. Major banks and other financial groups should know the pitfalls of gambling — many of their customers have problems. Likewise the major online (mostly foreign-owned) gambling businesses — they know their demographics and know their losers.

So next time you read (or see on commercial TV or hear on commercial radio) a story or stories on the damage gambling is doing to families, children, businesses, or read about court cases where there has been rampant fraud or defalcations, remember that the relevant media outlet is having a two-way bet. They want you to be concerned (and judgemental) about the problem gamblers or the people charged with fraud etc, but they also want advertisers (and especially providers of gambling services) to spend more in print (and on TV and radio) and they are happy to use gmabling as a way to get that advertising. If you had to say where the emphasis in the print media (which is struggling to survive) lies, it would be in maximising the revenue, while showing rampant hypocrisy about the evils of gambling.

Peter Fray

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