Betting ad ban undermines free speech

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has indicated that a Coalition government would legislate to ban live betting odds from being advertised during sporting broadcasts, unless free-to-air networks impose their own set of regulations before the next election:

We are natural deregulators, not regulators. But when you’ve got a significant social nuisance, it’s important for government to at least be prepared to step in.

This is the same argument typically dragged out time and time again by those who want to suppress freedom of speech and choice – ‘I’m all for free speech but…’ – and for the leader of the Coalition to take this line is concerning.

Abbott goes on to say “The game should be about performances, not about whether you might make 10 bucks by guessing who scores the first goal.”

The IPA’s Chris Berg brilliantly explains the folly of this attitude:

On the one hand, we know sport is a multimillion-dollar corporate business where young and athletic men are split into groups, churned through training regimes, and paid to compete for our amusement. It is a vast money-making ecosystem.

So why, when sports betting only makes up 1.5 per cent of the total amount Australians spend on gambling, are anti-gambling advocates and some sports enthusiasts like Abbott so concerned? According to Berg, it points to a deeply held romanticism of the game:

It is indicative that most critics of sports betting say they are not worried about the betting so much as seeing the odds on television. They don’t want to break the fantasy. They don’t want to see the revenue streams behind the curtain.

Getting tough on sports commentators broadcasting betting odds may make for a few nice headlines and sound-bites for Tony Abbott. But it will only be one more restriction on freedom of speech which won’t actually do anything to curb problem gambling.

 

 

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