NBA play-offs reveals gap in Australian gambling ad restrictions

Business News

Basketball’s booming popularity has shone an uncomfortable spotlight on a loophole within Australia’s advertising rules that allow betting companies to market their products to kids.

Since the end of March, gambling advertisements have been banned from all live sport broadcasts between 5:00am and 8:30pm, but there is an exception: subscription channels that are deemed to have a low-audience share.

That means American sports broadcaster ESPN, home of the NBA playoffs, is free to broadcast gambling advertisements around the clock.

“Most of the games are played in the morning. That means if your kids are fans of the NBA and are watching the play-offs, they will see ads before 8:30pm,” said Samantha Thomas, a gambling expert from Deakin University.

The latest available figures from mid-April suggested ESPN had a national weekly audience of 590,000 — although that is likely to have increased as Australians Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles continue their play-off runs.

“We know that the NBA is massively increasing in popularity. Perhaps the Government didn’t think carefully through the fact that sports like the NBA would be playing on these channels,” Professor Thomas said.

“The policy that the Government has developed is incredibly inconsistent, in that the Government is prepared to protect the fans of some sporting codes, but not others.”

Professor Thomas studies the effects of sports betting advertising on children, and said that 75 per cent of children thought gambling was now a natural part of sport.

“When we ask children why they think gambling is a normal part of sport they generally tell us it’s because of the advertising they see during the games,” she said.