Australian betting operators are potentially facing a “siren to siren” ban on advertising during televised live sporting matches, according to local media reports.
On Wednesday, The Australian reported that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield would present a proposal to cabinet on Tuesday that would prohibit television networks from airing betting ads at any time during a live sports contest. Cabinet is expected to approve the proposal.
A similar prohibition was part of a group of gambling initiatives proposed by Independent Sen. Nick Xenophon but these were rejected by a Senate committee last month on the grounds that the federal government had things under control.
Australian free-to-air broadcasters will reportedly be offered reductions in license fees to help offset the expected loss of advertising revenue, but it’s unknown whether subscription TV services will be offered similar incentives to win their support.
Australia’s sporting codes may prove a harder sell. ABC reported that key execs from the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League met with Fifield last week to argue that further advertising restrictions would drastically reduce the value of their media rights deals with betting operators. Cricket Australia is reportedly also lobbying against further curbs.
Malcolm Speed, exec director of the Coalition of Major Professional Participation Sports, told The Australian that media rights were “the sports’ greatest asset.” Speed noted that broadcasters had previously agreed to ban the promotion of live odds during sports broadcasts and further restrictions “will inevitably result in lowering investment in community and participation programs, and grassroots development.”
An unidentified source at a major sports body pointed out that Fifield’s proposed ban “also has the potential to rob sports of product fees,” i.e. the commissions paid by Australian betting operators for taking wagers on individual sports. This source said Fifield’s plan “will result in no reduction in gambling, but a reduction in taxation to state and federal governments.”
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), a trade body representing many of the country’s betting operators, has supported a reduction in betting advertising on television, apparently believing that it’s better to support moderate curbs in the hope of avoiding more punitive measures. It’s unclear whether the RWA will support Fifield’s blanket live sports ban.