During COVID-19 lockdowns, many TV viewers noticed a massive increase in sports betting advertising. And it wasn’t just a factor of increased screen time. Gambling ads are no longer the domain of sports broadcasts but are repeatedly playing in prime-time programs.
“They’re just everywhere,” says Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate, Stu Cameron. “Even in a show like Lego Masters, that is family-friendly, you can’t escape them.”
Australians have had a gutful. More than a third of AFL fans are worried about the proliferation of gambling advertising . Ad Standards community research indicates that 42% of Australians are concerned about the content of gambling ads , and their concerns are well-founded.
“As the number of people engaging in sports betting increases, so does the number of people being harmed by gambling – particularly young men. Harm to relationships, health, and psychological wellbeing are some of the most commonly experienced impacts of gambling ,” says Cameron.
“And just like the ads, gambling harm is everywhere. The total number of people at risk from gambling harm is estimated to be 1.3 million Australians3, and it’s why we’ve launched our campaign.”
Wesley Mission wants Australians to reach out for support.
“The reality is that someone in your life will be caught in gambling and relentlessly targeted by advertising and inducements. You may not know it because stigma often keeps people silent. It might be a friend or someone at work, but it could easily be your partner, parents, or children,” says Cameron.
“We’ve seen great campaigns in recent years, such as ‘love the game, not the odds’, but our campaign is about empathy for the person experiencing gambling harm. ‘Love the person, not the gambling industry’, if you will.”
The campaign points people to call 1800 858 858 for confidential support, specific to gambling, available 24/7.
“Everyone knows about calling Lifeline on 13 11 14 when experiencing a personal crisis. But very few people know that there is support for people experiencing gambling harm, for friends and family to call.”
The TV commercial features a newly recorded country version of The Whitlams song, ‘Blow up the Pokies’. First released in 1999, the lyrics are just as powerful today. “And I wish I, wish I knew the right words. To make you feel better, walk out of this place. And defeat them in your secret battle…”
“I think we’ve all felt that desperation, wanting to help but not knowing how,” says Cameron.
“But help is available, and together we can speak out, to say enough is enough.”
Reach out or speak out: https://www.wesleymission.org.au/gambling-support/
Media interviews: Amanda Bailey | 0429484632 firstname.lastname@example.org