In recent years, online betting and gambling apps have become widespread, influencing various aspects of our lives, from social media to sports events.
In March, the Australian Gambling Research Centre released the results of a survey on Australian gambling habits, attitudes towards advertising, and its impact on behaviour.
The findings showed that 75 per cent of those surveyed had gambled at least once in the past year. A significant majority, 77pc, expressed concerns about the abundance of gambling opportunities, and 68pc believed that gambling posed risks to family life.
The study also highlighted the extensive exposure and impact of gambling advertising. A striking 78pc of respondents reported seeing gambling ads at least once a week, with 41pc encountering them four or more times in that timeframe. The research showed that younger people were more likely to come across these ads through social media and online platforms.
Young people were found to increase their gambling activities in response to advertising across various platforms, including television, streamed content, social media, online platforms, and direct messages. Disturbingly, exposure to gambling ads led 50pc of those at risk of harm to increase their gambling, and 41pc changed their preferences or tried new forms of gambling.
The research also revealed the troubling way gambling ads target young people. By intertwining gambling promotions with sports broadcasts, impressionable minds are exposed to online gambling products from a young age.
The constant stream of gambling promotions during sporting events normalises gambling and makes it seem like an everyday activity. This not only desensitises young people to the risks associated with gambling but also creates an environment that encourages this behaviour.
The presence of gambling company logos on athletes' uniforms, billboards, and televised broadcasts blurs the line between sports and gambling. Allowing online betting platforms and mobile apps to bombard screens with ads inadvertently exposes vulnerable individuals, including children and young people, to gambling. Young people, who are particularly susceptible to the influence of these ads, may lack the judgment and maturity to understand the long-term consequences of their actions.
A survey conducted by Gambling NSW in 2019 revealed that gambling is more common in some regional areas of NSW than in metropolitan centres, highlighting the potential for significant impact on individuals and communities in regional, rural, and remote NSW.
At the CWA of NSW annual conference in May, members voted to advocate government to take action to end the advertising of online betting platforms and mobile apps, as well as stricter regulations on gambling sponsorship in sports broadcasts. Advocating for the cessation of gambling advertising and sponsorship does not mean banning personal choice but rather calls for responsible regulation to protect the vulnerable and maintain the integrity of our society.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) recently characterised online gambling as a "pervasive threat that needs to be stopped", emphasising the urgency of the situation. By recognising the harmful effects of online gambling and taking decisive action, we can create a safer gambling environment for all Australians.
- By Joy Beames is the CWA of NSW president