VSO Analysis: Why Are Australians More Opposed to Gambling Than Fossil Fuels?

  • Australia is suffering due to fossil fuels, but citizens oppose gambling more, says a new study
  • Around 62% of Aussies would support a gambling ad ban in sport, only 27% for fossil fuels
  • Australian gamblers lost the most per capita in the world in 2018-19, and iGaming has risen
  • Estimates suggest this causes one death per day on average from gambling-related suicide
  • Australia can serve as a warning to others, like the US, where these sponsorships are new
Smoke from tower
According to a new poll, Australians are more opposed to gambling sponsorship than fossil fuels despite the severe effects climate change is already having in the country. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Feeling the heat

Currently, Australia is a country with far more at stake in the battle against climate change that most. The nation is no stranger to extreme weather, from drought to bushfires, heatwaves, and floods. But those instances have ramped up in recent years with 2022 already bringing unprecedented rainfall and record heat.

widespread flash floods in October

Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), and Tasmania all suffered from widespread flash floods in October resulting in multiple deaths. This came just six months after flooding on the east coast resulted in AU$4.8bn ($3.3bn) in damage. Heatwaves, however, have caused more Australian deaths in the past 200 years than any other natural hazard.

While countries in other areas such as Europe are only just beginning to see routine dangerous weather conditions, Australia is balancing on a knife edge that gets sharper each year.

Despite all of this, poll results this week suggested the average Australian is more opposed to gambling advertising than fossil fuels. To stand against gambling but not one of the main causes of climate change might seem like a peculiar stance, so its important to take a look at why this is the case.

Conflicting views

According to the study conducted by Resolve Strategic, 62% of surveyed Australians would support a ban on gambling sponsorship in sport. Meanwhile, just 27% of citizens want to ban coal, oil, and gas companies from sports sponsorship. Most notably, more than half of poll takers agreed that fossil fuel firms should have the right to sponsor sports teams at 51%.

Kickett wrote to his club to urge them to ditch Woodside Energy

It’s a stance that goes directly against the actions of Australian sports stars such as cricket test captain Pat Cummins and Australian rules football legend Dale Kickett. Cummins announced last month that he will no longer appear in any advertisement for Cricket Australia sponsor Alinta Energy, while Kickett recently wrote to his club to urge them to ditch Woodside Energy as its sponsor. 

It also goes against the campaigning efforts of experts such as Sophie McNeill, Australian researcher at Human Rights Watch. Speaking recently, she argued that “Australians are paying the price of government inaction on climate.” She believes that leaders are not taking the critical steps needed to reduce carbon emissions within the expected timeframe.

The Australian government introduced the Climate Change Bill 2022 this year. It outlines greenhouse gas emissions targets including a 43% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050. To date, less than 19% of Australia’s energy is generated through renewable sources.

So, why gambling?

While fossil fuels are undoubtedly a critical issue in Australia, and the entire world for that matter, gambling is arguably causing a more immediate danger to life down under. According to the most recent available information, the country’s residents had the largest per-capita gambling loss in the world in 2018-19 at around $25bn.

One of the most prevalent forms of gambling are slot machines, known locally as pokies, which cost Australians $7.24bn in 2021, actually marking a drop of 17% from pre-pandemic levels.  Meanwhile, the pandemic has caused a rapid increase in online gambling, losses swelling 80% to $2.04bn from 2019 to 2021.

accounts for around one Australian death per day

About one in six Australians who gamble regularly online has a serious addiction, according to government data. They lose on average about $13,359 per year. When left unchecked, this addiction can lead to suicide. One other factor that could put gambling above climate change on most peoples’ list of concerns is that it accounts for around one Australian death per day, according to estimates.

As part of a recent crackdown, online gambling companies will soon be forced to tell customers “chances are you’re about to lose” before they play on their sites. This is one element of a new set of rules in the National Consumer Protection Framework, also including a selection of other tags they must share in ads.

Like with fossil fuels, some stars and sports teams have also come out in opposition of gambling. Western Sydney Wanderers have teamed up with the NSW Office of Responsible Gaming for its anti-gambling campaign. Similarly, Adelaide United has announced a ‘Here for the Game’ campaign tackling risky sports betting.

A stark warning

Australia’s opposition to gambling sponsorship, and the fact that this trumps resistance to world-endangering fossil fuels, could be viewed as an important indicator to other younger markets. Australia has offered legal gambling in some form since the 1850s and now it seems that its citizens are finally reaching breaking point.

multiple soccer clubs are protesting the prevalence of gambling sponsorship

The UK can provide a similar example. This weekend, multiple soccer clubs are protesting the prevalence of gambling sponsorship in their sport. They will wear yellow boot laces in the weekend fixtures to show support for the Big Step campaign. In July, English Premier League teams supposedly confirmed that they will phase out betting sponsors.

Meanwhile, the US is just getting started on its gambling sports sponsorship journey. This includes deals signed by the NFL with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel, in addition to similar agreements formed by the other Major Leagues. Currently, these gambling firms are free to partner with whoever they like, but how long before Americans begin to share the same animosity towards gambling seen in Australians?

Only time will tell.

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