Regulations on sports gambling ads are a step in the right direction

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Late last year a study of 48 children’s gambling habits and attitudes was published. Several children perceived sports gambling as a “normal” or even an “almost compulsory” part of sports. One even stated that people are supposed to gamble on a grand final.

This is a small study, but it raises some alarming questions about the influence of sports gambling culture on children.

The Australian Government’s regulations banning gambling ads from being aired from five minutes before a game until five minutes after are a necessary step to prevent future generations from spiralling into addiction.

Before anyone becomes outraged at the idea of a ‘think of the children’ argument being used for an activity already banned for children, keep in mind that gambling ads are still allowed during breaks after 8:30 PM. 

But are these regulations enough? Children already gamble. It may not be happening at the pokies or in front of a TV in a bar, but it happens. Families bet on whether a family member is going to do something expected of them or who’s going to win a reality TV show. Primary Schools, as a search for the term ‘primary school’ on a footy tipping website shows, participate in footy tipping. Teachers use the likelihood of football teams winning to spark an interest in maths lessons. Even if they don’t gamble already, children someday have to grow into adults, who may pick up a gambling habit they see as ‘normal’ or ‘compulsory’. Showing less gambling ads during times when children are more likely to watch sports could prevent the normalisation of gambling in children’s minds.

‘Primary School’ search on footytips.com.au’s Competitions section

Some adults may argue that gambling in sport is just a harmless pastime that’s a part of ‘being Australian’, and if that’s the case, that is certainly not a compliment.

Gambling is on the rise in Australia, with sports betting expenditure in particular increasing by 13% from the 2014-2015 period to the 2015-2016 period, which is a problem when 41% of regular sports bettors experienced at least one gambling problem (either low-level, moderate or severe) in 2015. That number is not something to put our hands on our hearts and sing the national anthem to, unless debt, relationship problems, job loss and even the potential for panic attacks is something for Australians to be proud of. Yes, Australians can gamble responsibly, but something needs to be done to prevent a fun activity from twisting into addiction.

We already regulate the advertising of cigarettes and alcohol to lessen the number of people abusing them, and cigarette regulations in particular have had a marvellous effect on the prevalence of smoking. Why would it be any different for ads promoting gambling, a potentially addictive activity much like drinking and smoking?

Prohibiting gambling ads from playing at certain times during sports events may not stop everyone from becoming a compulsive gambler, but it is certainly a way Australia can manage this problem and wane the disastrous effects of sports betting ads on children. As we don’t know the full effects, this change is a gamble, but unlike most bets it’s one we as a society need to take.

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