The Sportsbet Brownlow medal and the Sportsbet Grand Final last year showed that sports betting has gone upstream and now owns our Aussie game. AFL CEO Gil McLachlan has sold our game for a mess of potage. The AFL took sponsorship revenue – which is minuscule next to what the revenue Sports Betting agencies make – and handed over our matches to a tsunami of advertisements from foreign-owned betting agencies.
Sports betting pioneer Matt Tripp’s company was worth $250,000 in 2005 and now with dominance through sponsorship and sports identities sportswashing (using sports to improve a tarnished reputation) is worth $12 billion today – all thanks to Gil. The same is true of the NRL with Sportsbet and Australian cricket with Bet365.
This is the first generation of parents who have had to explain to their children that sports and betting are not the same things. A generation ago (except for horse and greyhound racing) this was unthinkable. Culturally we were crystal clear on where to place gambling. It belonged in the Police Departments under the unit called ‘Gaming and Vice’. It might be legal but because we knew it was a vice we policed and regulated and restrained its advertising and appeal.
We have surrendered to an adult product that has legitimised itself by seizing the commanding sporting heights.
But now with politicians such as Jeff Kennett – who as Premier called for ‘a gaming led economic recovery’ in Victoria and became the chief spruiker for Crown Casino – we have seen gambling move from the margins and a vice to be sponsored to being touted as our economic Saviour. A vice had become a virtue overnight.
Remember gambling is an adult product like alcohol, tobacco and legalised brothels and we do not let them get in children’s faces, though all are legal, but gambling sponsorship and advertising during family-friendly viewing hours is the exception and are everywhere. To be clear we have surrendered to an adult product that has legitimised itself by seizing the commanding sporting heights. It has been sportswashing its addictive product to groom our children to become the next generation of gamblers and many underage kids are already gambling, not to mention starting a conversation about their club team or even school team with the betting odds.
Every AFL Club app that most kids have on their phones has the odds come up first when you just want to check the teams or starting time for the game.
This has changed their perception of sport and introduced the language of betting odds into every sporting conversation our children have. The rapidity of this mainstreaming and social engineering by overseas betting agencies has groomed our children to become fodder for the gambling industry under the nose of parents who feel powerless to stop it. Every AFL Club app that most kids have on their phones has the odds come up first when you just want to check the teams or starting time for the game.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher refuse to heed our call to ban sports betting sponsorship and advertisements. Spain and Italy have banned gambling sponsorship of all sporting teams, particularly soccer teams. Isn’t it tragic that after a Royal Commission Inquiry into institutional abuse of children – and serious penalties and charges – this pro-family federal government refuses to act on the grooming of our children with an adult product?
Remember we removed the Benson and Hedges Cricket Cup sponsorship, although tobacco is still legal, and we removed the Fosters AFL Grand Final as inappropriate for family enjoyment of the game. But our politicians have succumbed to betting agencies and watched on idly, (taking political donations) as these Agencies enforced state capture of Regulators, co-option of sport, culture and kids’ imaginations and sold us an ‘inevitability story’ that but for the sports betting sponsorship we could not enjoy top tier professional sport.
Isn’t it tragic that … this pro-family federal government refuses to act on the grooming of our children with an adult product?
Another curious sponsor has just popped up – cryptocurrency. Suddenly the AFL has a $25 million five-year sponsorship deal. Crypto may be a legal digital currency, but it is clearly seeking social legitimacy through sponsorship deals with sporting codes in Australia and elsewhere – like the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.
Like sports betting companies, crypto particularly appeals to young men, has huge volatility and large fluctuations in a short period, and is attractive to speculative mania. It is addictive also like betting markets because it has features such as losses disguised as wins where a Crypto app will give a notification when there is an increase but stay silent on the larger number of days where there is a loss, creating an impression that there are more wins than losses. And there is zero transparency about bets paid in cryptocurrency. No visibility and no regulation. Again regulators in Australia have been caught with their pants down and have no idea of whether money laundering, criminal activity and huge gambling losses are taking place.
Who has opened the door to all these unregulated risks with sponsorship deals? Again, our sporting codes, which are able to virtue signal on almost any social issue except those that actually might cost them a sponsorship dollar. Hypocrisy? Sure smells like it!
Tim Costello is chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Director of Ethical Voice Pty Ltd, Executive Director of Micah Australia
and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity.