A survey published in March by the Australian Gambling Research Centre has shown that gambling advertising is a major public policy issue in Australia, with most adults having gambled in the past 12 months.
The study, commissioned by the Australian Government, conducted in July 2022, aimed to provide insight into how exposure to wagering advertising influences behaviour, attitudes towards advertising, and potential policy responses.
According to the survey of Australian residents, three in four Australian adults (73%) gambled at least once in the past 12 months, with two in five (38%) gambling at least weekly. Lotteries/scratchies, horse racing, sports, and pokies were the most popular forms of gambling. Almost half (46%) of Australians who gambled were classified as being at some risk of gambling harm, with men more likely to gamble, gamble more frequently, spend more money, and be at risk of harm than women.
The survey found that Australians are concerned about the saturation of sports and race betting advertising, and its impact on gambling behaviour and risk of harm. These findings reflect global concerns reflected in the United Kingdom’s 20 Premier League clubs voluntarily agreeing to ban sponsorship from gambling companies on the front of their shirts to reduce gambling advertising.
When it comes to sports and race betting advertising, two in three (69%) Australians believed that gambling advertising is “too common”, and half (53%) thought that it “normalised gambling among children”. Most felt that seeing or hearing such ads made betting seem like a normal part of sport (69%) and made it less family-friendly (60%). Almost half (46%) admitted it decreased their enjoyment of sport.
The survey also revealed that exposure to wagering advertising influenced betting behaviour, often in risky ways. People who were exposed to wagering advertising at least weekly were more likely to have spent money gambling on sports and racing and be classified as being at risk of gambling harm. Exposure to wagering advertising prompted 21% of respondents to start betting for the first time, 28% changed what they bet on or tried a new form of betting, 29% placed bets on impulse, and 34% increased their betting.
Young people and those at risk of gambling harm were most affected by exposure to wagering advertising, with one in five young women (19%) and one in seven young men (15%) starting to bet for the first time after seeing or hearing an ad on TV.
The survey showed that Australians believe governments should play the biggest role in deciding how wagering is advertised (64%), with many supporting outright bans on wagering advertising across all platforms and types.
The gambling industry spent $287.2 million on advertising in Australia in 2021, an increase of $15.9 million from 2020. Wagering operators use a diverse and increasingly sophisticated range of advertising platforms and strategies to promote their services, including in traditional media (television, radio, print) and via online/interactive modes (social media and direct messages).
The survey highlights the need for improved policy responses to the proliferation of wagering advertising in Australia. Governments, service providers, researchers, and the broader community will need to work together to address the issue and ensure that measures are put in place to protect individuals and families from gambling harm.