Live odds just the beginning

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Gambling welfare advocates and politicians have welcomed the banning of live odds advertising during sports broadcasts, but say there is a much bigger problem to be addressed.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the restrictions on Monday, but in a compromise with bookmakers stopped short of restricting advertisements during quarter and halftime breaks.

Member for Throsby Stephen Jones has been a long-term supporter of the crackdown, and believes it is only the first step in providing relief for viewers.

“I think this is a big step forward; we’re kicking the bookies out of the stadium,” says Mr Jones.

“We’ve sent a very clear signal to [bookmakers] that if they start running wall-to-wall gambling ads during those breaks, we will come back and legislate to lock the lot out.”

The Labor MP is particularly concerned by gambling advertisements being run during children’s viewing time, and says he will continue to push the issue in Caucus.

“I sit down and watch the footy with my son and daughter, and if they can talk to you about the odds before they know the rules of the game and the players on the field, there’s something wrong,” said Mr Jones.

“Children’s viewing time stops at 8:30 [pm], so in some respects this goes further, because it says it doesn’t matter when you broadcast it, these restrictions will apply.

“They’ve been given a little bit of wiggle room on this; if they stuff it up, it gives me a very good argument to take this even further, and I am adamant that we will come back at them.”

Kate Roberts, Executive Officer at the Gambling Impact Society NSW, says that the effect on children is her deepest concern around sports betting.

Despite this, Roberts says that while sports betting is the most visible part of the problem gambling debate, it is merely a side-issue and the issue of electronic gaming should take centre-stage.

“None of us are born with the idea of developing a gambling problem; it actually becomes a learnt behaviour which comes about through the normalisation of gambling,” says Roberts.

“It’s exposure and access that creates problem gambling, and the largest amount of harm is actually produced by electronic gaming machines, or ‘pokies’ as we call them.

“They are on every street corner and in community facilities; there are more and more casino-type products being introduced into small clubs.

Roberts believes that the extensive media coverage of the announcement is also beneficial in starting a conversation about the wider issue of problem gambling.

“Thankfully, the types of questions being raised [around sports betting] do start to help give the community an indication that their voice is being heard,” said Roberts.

“It’s nowhere near enough though, and we need to continue having this debate and strengthening our approach to the issue of problem gambling.”

Mr Jones agrees, saying the oversaturation of bookmakers like Tom Waterhouse has inadvertently drawn community attention to the issue.

“Waterhouse has acted as a lightning rod for what was a blatant concern for the public,” he says.

“People didn’t like it, as they saw the gradual encroachment of gambling into our sport; not just the footy, but cricket and tennis too.

“He’s personified everything that was giving people a lot of agro because he just souped it up and went right over the top.

Everywhere you looked, you were seeing Tom Waterhouse, and people said ‘I’ve had enough of this’; he’s done himself and the corporate bookmakers absolutely no favours.”

Words: BLAKE FODEN

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