Australia: Sports betting companies offer to discontinue NRL jersey sponsorships

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In the backdrop of growing calls to ban gambling advertisements across Australia, the sports betting companies have offered to remove their logos from football club match-day jerseys.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland is engaged in discussions with executives from gaming, TV, and sports leagues and is expected to soon announce new restrictions on TV, internet, and outdoor betting advertisements. The companies have also suggested restricting gambling adverts on radio during school drop and pick-up times, on billboards, and around schools, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

While Australian Football League (AFL) teams no longer partner with bookmakers for jersey sponsorships, a majority of the National Rugby League (NRL) clubs still sport logos of some of the major gambling firms. For the 2023 season, teams like Dolphins and Panthers partnered with BlueBet, while Knights and Raiders with PalmerBet. Also, other major betting companies like TAB and The Star sponsor the Cowboys and Broncos.

The most recent announcement for a complete ban on gambling advertisements for which the government even modelled the financial impact also received backing from several groups. Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton, in a statement, said that the advertising of sports betting will eventually be viewed in the same manner as the promotion of tobacco products.

As per multiple reports, the federal government is also contemplating ways to lower the volume and frequency of gambling advertisements while also being favoured by media companies and bookmakers at the same time.

Amidst this, Rowland has to respond to public demand to ban gambling advertisements while also finding a way to lower the financial blow to NRL, AFL and the broadcasters who receive hundreds of millions annually from marketing expenditures of primarily foreign companies.

Speaking on the current situation, Labor MP Peta Murphy said, “While any reforms are welcome, what the evidence clearly shows is that nothing short of a complete ban on advertising is needed to tackle the scale of this problem”.

Parliamentary Committee calls for complete ban

Meanwhile, a Parliamentary Committee set up by the government to look into the matter of gambling advertisement harm, chaired by Murphy, submitted its report in June of this year, recommending a complete ban on gambling adverts in the next three years.

A spokesperson for Rowland said that the government is looking into the committee’s recommendations. However, Coalition communications spokesman David Coleman claimed that Rowland was “moving too slowly to address the policy issue”.

“It’s been almost six months since the Coalition called for gambling advertising in live sport to be banned, and still no action has been taken by the government,” Coleman added.

Tim Costello, an anti-gambling advocate, compared the battle over gambling ad ban with the struggle over tobacco ad ban, calling the warnings on cigarettes an example of a half-measure that was attempted before being abandoned in favour of plain packaging.

“The equivalent to plain packaging here is the full ban. That’s where European nations are going. We want the ban, the public wants the ban, it’s the barbecue stopper,” said Costello.

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