Australia rugby league clubs continue blocking of sports betting adverts

By Dan Kleiner


Two Australian National Rugby League (NRL) clubs – South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – have agreed to block all sports betting sponsorship for a further three years.

The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs, both based in New South Wales (NSW), will not display betting ads during home NRL games. They will also continue to educate players, staff and fans about gambling risks.

This is in line with the NSW government’s Reclaim the Game initiative. Launched in 2020, the campaign stretches across several sports and encourages teams not to enter marketing deals with gambling businesses.

The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have supported the programme for the past two years, displaying Reclaim the Game branding at all home games.

According to the NSW government, since forming the two partnerships, members and fans have shown a marked increase in awareness of GambleAware responsible gambling services. It said around one in three Rabbitohs and Bulldogs supporters are aware of the GambleAware website and helpline.

“NRL games draw huge crowds and receive extensive media coverage,” director of the office of responsible gambling in NSW, Alison Parkinson, said: “NRL is highly intertwined with betting advertising and sponsorships, increasing the risk of gambling harm among fans.

“The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have been pioneers against the saturation of betting ads in the NRL. They are helping make their game days a family-friendly experience. Family traditions often shape support for a club. Attitudes towards gambling can also be passed down through generations.”

Ongoing support of adverts blocking scheme

The government adds that wider support of the programme has allowed the initiative to reach millions through more than 260 games. This includes on TV and for those inside stadiums.

Reclaim the Game now has 11 partners across five sports including the Australian Football League (AFL), A-League, cricket, National Basketball League and NRL. 

Other teams and organisation backing the programme include AFL team the Sydney Swans, A-League clubs Western Sydney Wanderers FC and Macarthur FC, as well as Cricket NSW.

“We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Reclaim the Game,” Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly said. “Their commitment to being part of a positive social movement aligns with the values of our club. We are excited to continue working together to challenge the notion that gambling is a normal part of sport.”

Bulldogs CEO Aaron Warburton added: “Rugby league is one of the most entertaining sporting experiences. We firmly believe that our members and fans should be able to watch and enjoy this great game without constant advertising from sports betting companies.”

Potential betting advertising ban in Australia?

Gambling companies already face certain restrictions when it comes to advertising betting in Australia. Rules prohibit gambling ads during live sport between 5am and 8.30pm. This also applies to radio and streaming services.

However, there is still plenty of exposure in the country. More than one million adverts featured on Australian free-to-air television and metro radio in the 12 months to 30 April 2023. Some 50% focused on online operators.

Some broadcasters have introduced their own measures against gambling adverts. For example, Special Broadcasting Service allows customers to opt out of receiving gambling ads.

This could go further and Australia could face a complete ad ban. Last year, a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling recommended a phased ban across all media.

The House of Representatives committee on social policy and legal affairs inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on problem gamblers released a report that outlined 31 recommendations for reforming the gambling sector in Australia.

Among other measures, the committee advised a blanket ban on all gambling advertising on both broadcast media and online, that “leaves no room for circumvention”.

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