As sports betting agency advertising continues to escalate, a nationwide poll has revealed that almost one in five Australians aged 18-64 place a bet on a sporting event at least once per month.
The results, revealed through research carried out by the survey series Crossman Insights, initiated by Sydney-based public relations consultancy Crossman Communications using the Newspoll Online Omnibus, also confirm that men are much more likely to place a sports bet, with 27 per cent admitting to taking a punt at least once per month, compared to just nine per cent of women.
Crossman Communication Managing Director, Jackie Crossman, is not surprised by the results, given the invasive nature of sports betting promotion which targets primarily the male population.
âThe majority of men are much more intimately involved and passionate about sports and their teams, leaving them more vulnerable than women to the temptations of gambling on sport. There is a certain pressure among your peers to prove how clever or passionate you are by placing a winning bet,â she said.
âThe number of Australians admitting to placing bets regularly suggest that the sports betting agencies are succeeding in ânormalisingâ the practice of placing a bet on sporting events, almost like it has become part of the game. It has become commonplace to talk about sports in terms of odds and numbers, rather than favourite athletes or great plays.â
A closer look at the figures from the Newspoll survey, which polled over 1200 Australians between the ages of 18-64, reveals that level of income and frequency of gambling does not necessarily correlate. Those with a household income of less than $50,000 are just as likely to place a weekly bet as those with a $90,000 plus income (9%).
These numbers suggest that less well-off members of society are vulnerable to succumbing to the lure of regularly placing bets with money they can ill-afford to lose, something that concerns Crossman.
âThe ideal way of having a flutter is placing some excess money on something like the Melbourne Cup or the odd spin on the pokies. However, if it gets to a point where people are regularly gambling with money they can put to better use, then it becomes a bigger issue. The aim should be to tackle the problem in its infancy.â
A major roadblock to this is that it is almost nigh-on impossible to watch a major sporting event without being blitzed by betting agency advertisements, in one form or another.
The vast sums of money gambling agencies throw at advertising Generic Viagra, from jumper signage, to in-your-face television ads and even naming stadiums, continues to accelerate. The industryâs advertising spend increased by 13 per cent to $127,302,000 in the last year, according to figures provided by Sydney media buying agency, Chaos Media.
Betfair and TAB Sportsbet, two of the industryâs largest firms, sponsor the AFL directly, while, of the 18 clubs in the competition, only three of them do not have any connection with a betting agency. Australiaâs other major league, the NRL, is similarly swamped, with TAB Sportsbet also the official sponsor.
However, this aggressive strategy seems to be backfiring, judging by public perception. The Newspoll discovered that approximately one in three Australians believe that sponsorship of sporting teams or events should not be allowed by sports betting agencies, while 40 per cent are against commentators providing the latest live odds, with 28 and 29 per cent undecided in these categories.
Crossman believes that the constant in-your-face nature of advertising by sports betting agencies may be inadvertently harming their cause.
âBetting agencies have seized the opportunity to place themselves alongside elite sport, in an attempt to intrinsically link sports and betting, so that taking a punt becomes part of the game.
âHowever, it seems their marketing has gone too far, to a point where it has woken people up to the dangers of receiving constant live odds updates and direct sponsorship of teams with logos plastered over players uniforms,â she said.
âThis form of aggressive advertising exposes young children to the world of gambling and creates a link between it and their sporting heroes, a very worrying development.â
As a consequence, 13 per cent of Australians rank sports betting agency advertising as more harmful to the community than tobacco or alcohol promotion. Given the much-publicised warnings associated with the latter two, and the relative lack of information about the potential pitfalls of gambling, these figures are perhaps surprising. Crossman suspects this number will rise, gradually.
âWhile it would be foolish not to admit that gambling will always be associated with sport to some degree, the figures show that suggestions the horse has already bolted are wide of the mark. As more information becomes available and more public figures, like David Schwarz (AFL) and Owen Craigie (NRL), speak up about their own experiences, the message of the dangers will become more widespread,â Ms Crossman said.
âDepending on the outcome of the ongoing review of the Interactive Gambling Act, 2001, the brakes could be put on sports betting advertising, sponsorship and other forms of promotion.â