According to reports, the Australia gambling ad ban that’s been moving through legislation for the last few years could go into effect next week. Those opposed to the ban are warning officials that it will devastate grassroots sports and local free-to-air networks, and will inevitably drive punters to offshore online sportsbooks.
The Australia gambling ad ban, in its current scripting by the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), would impose an outright ban against all gambling related advertisements from ‘siren to siren‘. As No gambling ads would be permitted on the network from the start to finish of any live sporting broadcast.
Another piece of proposed legislation would only restrict the advertisement of live, in-play betting during live broadcasts. Yet another proposal, originally introduced in 2013 by the Labor government, seeks to ban the advertisement of all betting odds, starting 30 minutes before, and ending 30 minutes after, a live sports broadcast.
According to The Australian, Communications Minister Mitch Fifeld is poised to put the NXT’s version to the cabinet on Tuesday, April 21. If approved, it could go into effect as early as next week.
Online Sportsbooks will Reap the Benefits
Online sportsbooks, operated by international companies, are not obligated to abide by Australia gambling laws – at least not yet. If the ban goes into effect, these operators will still be able to advertise betting odds via other outlets, like their own websites, mobile apps and social media.
Punters may not be subject to televised ads, but these online sportsbooks will still be able to reach them. The end result, many fear, will simply be a vast reduction in taxable revenue, and an influx of Australia dollars flowing offshore.
“This will drive punters to overseas websites and it will result in no reduction in gambling, but a reduction in taxation to state and federal governments,” an anonymous ‘senior source’ from a ‘major sporting body’ told The Australian.
Detriment to Grassroots Sports Organizations
At the same time, criticism has been raised that the ban will have a negative impact on sports codes. These organizations rely on betting revenue, collecting a commission from Australian betting agencies for each bet wagered on their sport.
The same source told the newspaper that the Australia gambling ad ban, “also has the potential to rob sports of product fees.”
The Executive Director of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports, Malcom Speed, is none too thrilled about the prospects, either. His coalition represents all major sports codes across the country, and is vehemently protesting the ban.
“The sports have co-operated with broadcasters and the government to ban live odds during matches,” said Speed. “So any restriction or prohibition will inevitably result in lowering investment in community and participation programs, and grassroots development.”
Free-to-Air Networks Demand Lower Licence Fees
Driving punters to offshore online sportsbooks and withering sports codes isn’t the only problem the Australia gambling ad ban could produce.
Free-to-air networks that broadcast live sports events make a significant portion of their revenue from gambling ads. They argue that they’ll no longer be able to afford to air sports, due to the already excessive licencing fees.
Paul Anderson, CEO of Ten, said Australia’s free-to-air networks pay the highest licence fees in the world. In an industry that’s already so heavily regulated, further restrictions could eliminate their ability to broadcast major sports at all.
“Cutting licence fees is the fair and right thing to do to protect Australian content, and is essential to the viability of our sector,” Anderson said in a statement to Fairfax Media.
The government is expected to lower network licencing fees as a “trade-off” for the gambling ad ban. Whether an equivalent deal will be offered to subscription-based networks is unknown.