Sports Betting Firms Offer To Remove Logos From NRL Jerseys

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 12: James Tedesco of the Roosters scores a try during the round nine NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium on May 12, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Sports betting firms have offered to remove their logos from the front of NRL jerseys, pre-empting a potential ban from legislators.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland is preparing curbs on TV, online and outdoor betting promotions following discussions with gambling, TV and sporting code executives.

Around half of the clubs in the NRL have partnerships with sports betting firms. However, three sources who spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald on condition of anonymity confirmed that the industry had offered to stop advertising on football jerseys.

The industry also suggested taking gambling-based ads off the radio around school pick-up times and prohibiting promotions on billboards and around schools. The latter prohibition is already underway in Victoria and AFL clubs have moved away from allowing betting firms to sponsor jerseys.

The government has modelled the financial hit that a blanket ban on TV and digital gambling ads would have on the sporting code. However, the sources said that the government does favour a milder intervention that would limit the volume and frequency of gambling ads. Naturally, media companies and the bookies favour the move.

According to the sources, one option proposed by officials would be to limit gambling ads to between one and three per hour, per TV channel. The government is studying how this could be applied to streaming services.

The tide is certainly turning on gambling advertising. A government committee in June recommended that all advertising promoting betting should be banned within three years. Many in media and advertising said that such a ban would not be proportionate and would be damaging to sports and businesses across the country.

“We recognise there is community concern in relation to ‘saturation’ gambling advertising which needs to be addressed and we are willing to work constructively with the Government to make that happen. However, we are concerned that the Committee’s recommendation to impose an outright ban on all advertising is not a proportionate response,” said Gai Le Roy, CEO of IAB Australia, for instance.

On Sunday, Labor MP Peta Murphy — who chaired the committee — said that these latest efforts would not suffice.

“While any reforms are welcome, what the evidence clearly shows is that nothing short of a complete ban on advertising is needed to tackle the scale of this problem,” she said.

One of the sources said comms minister Rowland was trying to rock the boat as little as possible when it came to gambling advertising reforms.

“This won’t be about evidence and reports. It will be a high-level political decision driven by a desire to minimise blowback from TV companies and the sports,” the source said.

The source also noted that Rowland was under pressure following reports of Sportsbet’s large donations to her personal re-election fund, which prompted calls for her resignation.

A spokesman for Rowland said the government was considering the recommendations of Murphy’s committee, while Coalition communications spokesman David Coleman said Rowland was moving too slowly to address the policy issue.

“It’s been almost six months since the Coalition called for gambling advertising in live sport to be banned, and still no action has been taken by the government,” he said.

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