Sports betting and the misleading media

As the sports betting industry continues to cop it from all angles in the media, The Insider asks why.

As the commentary continues in light of the Federal Government’s decision to partially ban sports betting promotion on TV and radio, how is it that so many in the media – supposedly independent media at that – are getting away with misleading their audience about sports betting?

Surely journalists can’t be so misinformed when it comes to discussing gambling? So often, articles and reports begin by talking about the current sports betting issue and somehow end up blurring the lines by making general statements about more harsh forms of gambling.

As I’ve mentioned before here:

“Many commentators and like have failed to understand that different forms of gambling have different returns, different attractions and ultimately, different rates of problem gambling and addiction.”

Some facts:

– Latest figures show that sports betting accounts for just 1.6% of total gambling expenditure in Australia. Yes, all the recent coverage for 1.6%!

– The Productivity Commission report into gambling found that wagering (of which betting on sport makes up a minor percentage alongside racing and tote betting) was responsible for less than 10% of problem gamblers. Pokies, not surprisingly, made up 80%.

– The sports betting industry is growing at around 3% a year. But don’t let that get in the way of a good headline: “Study finds explosion in sports betting despite decline in number of gamblers

Sports betting is far less repetitive and thus one of the safest, most regulated and least addictive forms of gambling available. Yet the media, fuelled by a mob seemingly angry and annoyed at one individual, often conclude differently.

‘Not far enough’ screams FitzSimons, ‘this insidious practise must be stopped’ cries the Greens. How about some perspecive? Never mind about the other 98.4% of the gambling pie, most of which includes the wicked, malicious and made-to-be-addictive poker machines.

Take this report on ABC TV’s ‘Lateline’ last night, where the main focus was on linking the sports betting industry to the tobacco industry!

We had a bloke called Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, tell us that “This is where it really relates to tobacco. It’s that business of trying to tackle teenagers… we know they’re targeting teenagers and children.” Excuse me? Any evidence?

We had a ‘mummy blogger’ tell the world that a child “on one of the sports betting sites, saw an online link to a National Australia Bank credit card that could be opened over the phone and thought he’d give that a try”. Which site? Absolute fiction.

And then worst of all we have the so-called ‘academics’. These are the go to people to fill your story with gravitas and compelling intellectual quotes. One such is Southern Cross University researcher Dr Sally Gainsbury. She says that “there is evidence that there are higher problem gambling rates among people who gamble online and these internet gamblers are more likely to gamble in a greater number of activities and also more frequently engage in gambling.”

Let’s just ignore for a moment the fact that this ‘academic’ doesn’t actually produce any evidence or that suddenly sports betting has been piled in with all forms of online gambling. What Dr Sally never tells her audience or more importantly the journalist, is that she is in the pocket of the pokie lobby. Totally ‘independent’ research, yet straight from the Clubs Australia playbook. Thanks Sal.

There was this report where Ben Eltham concludes that “the industry has made very little noise about the current proposal” and is thus happy with the reforms. That’s because the sports betting industry doesn’t have a mouthpiece! Rightly or wrongly, the Australian Wagering Council and its CEO Chris Downy have remained silent. All they had to do was point out some facts. Compare this response to the appalling campaign of misinformation by the clubs lobby over poker machine reform and the contrast is immense.

Misinformed and misguided media aside, our kids can now watch sport on TV without any gambling promotion (just flick the channel over at quarter and half time!). So life is good again for all of Australia’s impressionable teenagers? Don’t bet on it.

This article was originally published at It has been reproduced with permission.

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