Australia’s bookmakers and television networks are hitting back against efforts to restrict their ability to advertise.
Australia’s recent elections left longtime anti-gambling politicians Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie with new capacity to further their agenda, including banning bookmakers from advertising on TV during live sports broadcasts and ‘G-rated’ family-friendly time slots.
Tim Worner, CEO of Australian media giant Seven West Media, slammed the proposed ad ban as “draconian and unnecessary.” Worner said broadcasters already had “extensive restrictions in place” and claimed that the effectiveness of these restrictions meant that “the incidence of complaints from our viewers on sports betting ads is actually low.”
Ten Network CEO Paul Anderson echoed Worner’s concerns, saying free-to-air television was “not seeing complaints or concern from our audience.” Anderson also reminded pols that FTA TV was already “by far” the most restricted advertising platform.
Nine Network CEO Hugh Marks took a more cautious approach, saying his outfit was “alert to the community standards and will continue to be vigilant and responsible in handling this industry.”
The Australian Wagering Council (AWC) released a statement saying that advertising “remains an important legal right” for licensed Aussie betting operators. The AWC said its members knew that the right to advertise “also comes with responsibilities,” which is why it applauded the new Wagering and Advertising Marketing Communications Code that took effect on July 1.
On Tuesday, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, which has been working with Xenophon and Wilkie, unveiled a proposal to wean the networks off their gambling teats. Alliance strategy director Rohan Wenn told Pro Bono Australia the plan was to push “a gradual phase out of sports-betting advertising that won’t impact on the networks.”
Wenn said the “cost-neutral” plan would likely involve “a dollar for dollar reduction in commercial TV licences. So for every gambling dollar a network stops taking, their commercial TV license fee to the Commonwealth Government would go down a dollar.” Wenn said that if the state felt it was losing out on the deal, “they could simply levy the gambling companies that we all loathe, so much.”
New Standard Media Index figures obtained by The Australian showed that television ad spending by gambling operators totaled A$63m in the first half of 2016, nearly one-fifth higher than the same period last year. Nielsen data for 2015 showed total ad spending by gambling operators falling slightly last year but even betting operators like Sportsbet suggested some reductions were needed.