Ban gambling advertising

Lately whenever I watch advertising-funded TV (including SBS), something like a third of the ads are for gambling, and all of these promote gambling in an irresponsible fashion.

In particular, the ads are now primarily for racing and sports betting rather than, as in the past, for lotteries. Decades ago, I did a lot of research into gambling and reached the conclusion that lottery gambling is mostly harmless fun, but that all the other forms (pokies, casinos and sports betting) are pernicious.

The majority of the revenue for these forms of betting comes from a small proportio of heavy gamblers (about 5 per cent of all gamblers, IIRC). These gamblers have lots of problems caused by gambling, ranging from marriage breakdowns to bankruptcy. Not all heavy gamblers appear as “problem gamblers”, but the observation I recall on this topic is “a problem gambler is a heavy gambler who’s run out of luck”.

It seems impossible to reverse the expansion of access to gambling that has taken . But we could, at least prohibit or strictly limit advertising, as has been done with tobacco and alcohol.

41 thoughts on “Ban gambling advertising

  1. Nick

    your AIFS link says that 6.3% of sports bettors are problem gamblers, which is much less than the 15% of pokie players who are problem gamblers. Once one takes into account the greater frequency of pokie gambling vis a vis sports betting (weekly versus monthly) then sports betting problem gambling is an order of magnitude less than pokie problem gambling.

    End of Discussion.

  2. Amazing how big the push for gambling is.
    Just got my new pc operational and like most other lost souls tend to escape to the solitaire games. In the past these have been a safe haven but with the new set I am blocked from moving my game by Microsoft, who seem intent on hounding me big time to an induction called “Gambino Slots”, complete with false ad closer to prevent me from escaping assent as to their hectoring.

  3. Smith9, I’ll grant that I could have spent a bit more time looking for better figures.

    https://aifs.gov.au/agrc/publications/gambling-activity-australia/4-gambling-problems-and-participation

    Electronic Gaming Machines – 1,418,000 monthly users, low risk 18.2%, moderate risk 17.2%, problem gambler, 6.0%

    Sports betting – 574,000 monthly users, low risk 17.3%, moderate risk 17.1%, problem gambler, 6.3%

    So – they suffer almost identical levels of problem gambling. And sports betting is growing in popularity at a much faster rate.

  4. Table 4.5 is interesting to compare monthly participation rates among problem gamblers for each activity type. I’d guess the difference is because sports betting would tend to be seasonal, whereas these figures were averaged over an entire year.

  5. “they suffer almost identical levels of problem gambling.”

    More accurately, they suffer almost identical rates of problem gambling. But there are 2-3 times more pokie problem gamblers than sports betting problem gamblers.

    “And sports betting is growing in popularity at a much faster rate.”

    Yes but off a low base. On the latest data pokie losses are $12 billion per year (not counting the pokie losses in casinos) and sports betting losses are $1 billion.

  6. Smith9 A lot of your arguments (eg advertising doesn’t recruit new gamblers) were also used by the tobacco lobby when smoking ads were banned. Different cases, or do you think tobacco ad ban should be reversed?

  7. John Quiggin

    Tobacco harms all that use it and kills15000 people per year. Gambling harms only a small proportion of gamblers. According to the study linked by Nick, even a majority of poker machine gamblers have no problems. In this respect, gambling is like alcohol. Should alcohol advertising be banned too?

  8. Should alcohol advertising be banned too?

    Indeed it should. Keep alcohol legal, but ban all advertising, marketing, and promotional activity connected it with it. Apply plain packaging requirements to alcohol as well. Total alcohol consumption would fall significantly, as would alcohol related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

  9. So, before I start I should point out that I find restricting gambling advertising on the basis that children currently see it who aren’t allowed to gamble compelling.

    However, I find the argument banning gambling advertising in Australia, in the absence of any other measure, will reduce the prevalence or severity of problem gambling to be much weaker than would be intuitively expected.

    The reason I say this is through the work I did for an article a few years ago, can be found here https://www.theroar.com.au/2017/05/16/horse-just-bolt-gambling-reform/. When you look at the per capita real expenditure on gambling during the period that advertising on sports betting took off, the effect was to take significant market share from poker machines and make a small reduction in the total gambling expenditure. This is in marked contrast to the 1990’s, where real per capita gambling expenditure exploded when poker machines were introduced in Victoria and deregulated in NSW so they could be placed outside of licensed clubs. If gambling advertising was to increase the prevalence or severity of problem gambling, why didn’t per capita real expenditure on gambling increase in the same way it did under the deregulation of pokies in the ’90’s?

    I think that the reason for this, as Smith9 has correctly pointed out, is because while John Quiggin rightly points out that betting on sport and racing is addictive and will lead to more people with problem gambling than lotteries, it is in no way comparable to the addictive potential of pokies. They don’t advertise pokies, but they still take the lion’s share of the money with an outsized contribution of problem gamblers.

    There are substantial risks from online gambling, particularly through the data that online companies hold. While they have been traditionally more willing to look at that data to ban winners rather than fleece as much as they can from losers, that is changing and the regulatory mechanisms are not set up to properly cope with this. As academics have demonstrated, it can be predicted if a gambler is likely to present with future problems by looking at only the first month of transactions in their account.

    It would be interesting to see how other regulations, such as mandatory display of overall profit/loss of account holders whenever a gambler is logged in to their account and promotions only being allowed to be offered to all account holders would compare to restricting gambling ads. Perhaps they would be more effective, perhaps they wouldn’t.

  10. NathanA: “it is in no way comparable to the addictive potential of pokies”

    Sports betting is comparable since it has identical rates of problem gamblers. It clearly has exactly the same addictive potential. Why would they be that different? As Smith9 remarked, they both offer an adrenaline rush at the touch of a screen.

    NathanA: “They don’t advertise pokies, but they still take the lion’s share of the money with an outsized contribution of problem gamblers.”

    I don’t think you’re accounting for the demographic differences. People who bet on sports on their mobile phones tend to be younger and have less money to lose, people who use poker machines tend to be older and have more money to lose.

    The issue is one day younger sports betters will also have more money to lose.

    As you suggest, it’s about trying to get them addicted young. The target market for online sports betting couldn’t have been made clearer. As JQ said, it’s not much different to tobacco advertising.

    What’s the downside of banning it? I can’t see how doing that could possibly cause more suicides and broken families.

  11. Let’s at least get ‘seatbelts’ and plain packaging. And no advertising. No Smith9, advertising or not won’t effect us, yet will alleviate “top of mind” incidious memes being placed in next generation. 

  12. Nick says “As you suggest, it’s about trying to get them addicted young. The target market for online sports betting couldn’t have been made clearer. As JQ said, it’s not much different to tobacco advertising.”

    Fortnite… (the rest of these stats are equally amazing. $100m prize pool!
    “traffic peak at 37 Tbps – five times that of 2016 US presidential election” (depressing for democracy )

    “Total global Fortnite playing time May-June 2018 was 2.7 billion hours”

    This one really gets me – just watching – “In May 2018, 8.9 billion minutes of Fortnite were viewed on Twitch”

    148m hrs. Watching.

    businessofapps dot com/data/fortnite-statistics/

  13. Nick,

    The statistics that you quote estimate the ratio of poker machine:racing:sports gamblers at 2.5:1.7:1. The Australian Gambling Statistics released by Queensland Treasury (https://www.qgso.qld.gov.au/statistics/theme/society/gambling/australian-gambling-statistics) calculates gambling losses for all forms of gambling. The ratio of losses is 11.4:3.1:1. However, that figure includes all forms of gambling on racing (on course/TAB/off course) and does not include losses at poker machines at casinos, as those figures aren’t broken down by casinos. So, at a minimum, the average poker machine player loses 4 times as much as the average person betting online.

    Given the known, and very real, problems surveys have of getting accurate information of losses from punters, I think that the large discrepancy in losses is much stronger evidence that pokies are much more addictive than racing and sports betting. Pointing to demography doesn’t cut it, if online bookies are recruiting different demographics then the real overall gambling losses per capita will increase as these are a different group of people compared to those playing poker machines. But that isn’t happening, you have to explain the reduction by an external factor that is reducing poker machine losses (a ban on smoking in pubs, for instance).

    The difference between this and tobacco advertising is that it was clear that tobacco advertising increased sales of tobacco and therefore the adverse health effects that followed. While advertising by online bookies increases the amount of money wagered on racing and sports, it isn’t clear that real amount of money lost gambling per capita, the most obvious proxy for gambling harm, is increased. The opportunity cost arises if all political capital is spent on banning advertisements, rather than introducing regulatory systems that make it substantially more difficult for online bookmakers to target problem gamblers, something that is a lot easier in an environment where every bet by an individual is recorded rather than cash bets.

    I really don’t have anything more to add than I already have, people can agree or disagree with me but that’ll be my last post on the topic.

  14. NathanA: “I think that the large discrepancy in losses is much stronger evidence that pokies are much more addictive than racing and sports betting.”

    The qualified clinical psychologist I linked to disagrees with you. The AIFS statistics disagree with you and concur with the professional experience of the qualified clinical psychologist.

    “Pointing to demography doesn’t cut it”

    How much does demography account for then? It’s widely recognised sports betters are predominantly in their 20s. How much do you think your average 20 something has to lose compared to your average 60 something?

    “you have to explain the reduction by an external factor that is reducing poker machine losses”

    I’ll have to look at the figures in detail, but for starters, how about… a rapidly ageing and dying clientele, and the fact virtually nobody under 40 wants to hang out in an RSL club playing some large clunky piece of outmoded technology so dumbed down that even their great-grandparents can understand it?

  15. Alcohol ads are restricted in terms of the hours they can be broadcast and the restrictions are being tightened all the time.

    Then there’s the content. The typical gambling ad, if alcohol were the product, would show scenes of uproarious drunken fun, and would be banned immediately.

  16. If it was up to me there would be no gambling or alcohol advertising. Unfortunately the gambling industry has a truck load of money and will vigorously defend its interests: ***www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-08/gambling-policy-ditched-by-tasmanian-labor/10793080

    I imagine the alcohol industry would be just as vigorous in defending its bottom line.

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