Gambling ads near schools, on public transport to be banned by Victoria

Ladbrokes sports betting agency advertising at Flinders Street station in 2015. Photo: Josh RobenstoneEXCLUSIVE

Gambling advertising on Victorian trains, trams, buses and taxis will be banned under a new plan from the Andrews government.

Bookmakers would also be prevented from promoting betting near schools and at train stations.

The explosion in gambling advertising, due to the proliferation of internet betting in the past decade, has caused much angst in the community especially due to the growing relationship between gambling and sport.

On Sunday new Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz will release a consultation paper that proposes to ban static betting advertising on “public transport infrastructure, including trains, trams, buses and stations, and near schools”.

“The Victorian government is concerned about the normalisation of gambling on sport through the proliferation of gambling advertising. It is particularly concerned about its impact on children, adolescents and other people vulnerable to gambling-related harm,” the paper says.

The paper identifies public transport infrastructure and areas near schools as the first location for a crackdown due to the exposure it has over children and adolescents.

“Public transport infrastructure is also unavoidable as part of many Victorians’ day-to-day activities,” the report says.

Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations have had blanket gambling advertising, causing angst among many commuters.

But the reforms do not propose to crack down on advertising at sports arenas including the MCG or Etihad Stadium, or affect TV and radio advertising.

Gambling advertising contracts that are already signed will not be affected either.

Consultation will last a month, with legislation likely to be introduced next year to Parliament.

Academics and reformers have argued for several years that the growth in betting advertising, especially for sports like football, are having a damaging impact on children by “normalising” gambling.

A recent study from Deakin University, lead by Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, found that 75 per cent of eight-to-16-year-olds thought that gambling was a “normal or common part of sport” because of the advertising during sport.

And three-quarters of eight-to-16-year-olds could name one gambling company, with 25 per cent able to recall four or more bookies.

“We now have clear evidence that gambling ads are having an impact on children and that government must act,” she said.

Federally, senator Nick Xenophon and Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, along with the Alliance for Gambling Reform have called for a ban on sports betting advertising on TV during broadcasts.

The blurring of sport and betting has angered many, with some government MPs privately conceding action needed to be taken.

There is a code of practice for networks and advertising that prevents the promotion of odds and betting during “play”, restricting ads to before, after and during quarter breaks in the AFL.

Ms Kairouz has also called on the Turnbull government to follow Victoria’s lead and crack down on gambling ads in order to protect the most vulnerable in the community.

“Gambling is not an integral part of sport. Kids should be talking about their favourite sporting teams, not the odds of that team winning,” Ms Kairouz said.

“The Andrews Labor government is leading the nation, targeting insidious wagering ads which encourage Victorians most at risk to gamble.”

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