Tabcorp CEO Attenborough calls for Australian advertising overhaul

David Attenborough, CEO of Tabcorp, has called on the Australian federal government to tighten restrictions around gambling advertising on prime-time television.

The CEO of the ASX-registered gambling group detailed his belief that the government should reform Australia’s current advertising landscape, with a particular focus on limiting betting marketing during live sports events.

He cited exposure to children being greater during televised coverage of these events, whilst Attenborough added that general restrictions on prime-time televised advertising, with the notable exception of racing channels, would provide better protection for vulnerable viewers.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee, he remarked: “One is that they should look at restricting wagering advertising, particularly around live sporting events, between the hours of 6.30am and 8.30pm, where exposure to children is heightened. We’ve seen this done in the UK. It’s a classic way of trying to reduce the impact on the young.”

Under current Australian advertising regulations, commercials for betting and gambling products are not permitted on programmes with a G classification or lower from 6am to 8:30am and 4pm to 7pm.

Additionally, these adverts are prohibited from being shown during children’s programming between 5am and 8.30pm, but sports broadcasts are not currently covered by the requirements.

There had been no restrictions on gambling advertising on sports programming until 2018,  when the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull implemented a ban on betting commercials during live sport between 5am and 8.30pm.

Known as a ‘siren-to-siren’ ban, the measure is similar to the ‘whistle-to-whistle’ policy enacted by the UK’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), with no advertising or odds promotion permitted from five minutes before the start of a fixture until five minutes after the match has concluded, including during breaks.

Despite this new restriction, Australia’s betting and gaming industry spent $271.3 million on advertising in 2020, an increase of $89.7 million from 2011, when no restrictions were in place.

Betting commercials are some of the most complained about forms of advertising in Australia, whilst Reverend Tim Costello’s Alliance for Gambling Reform has long called for a blanket ban on gambling advertisements, referring to the barring of tobacco commercials from television.

Costello explained: “The same principles apply to gambling advertising. We would be shocked to see a tobacco ad during football and cricket these days because we know children watch these games and naturally want to emulate their heroes and support their sponsors. We must nip this in the bud right now, and the quickest and easiest way to do so is to end gambling advertising.”

Meanwhile, online gambling trade association Responsible Wagering Australia has emphasised the importance of an ‘evidence-based nationally consistent framework’, whilst maintaining that the sector is committed to socially responsible marketing.

The Tabcorp CEO’s comments follow on from his support for the implementation of a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling purposes in Australia, being joined by prominent Australian market incumbents bet365, Sportsbet and Ladbrokes.

However, Attenborough later detailed his belief that banks should have the primary responsibility for enforcing this credit card ban, due to having greater oversight of consumer’s financial transactions and behaviours than gaming firms.

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