Posts Tagged ‘gambling psychology’

With the 2017 AFL season nearly upon us, the sports betting agencies are gearing up for another onslaught of advertising across TV, Pay TV, radio, newspapers and the internet.  It really depresses me that our local game is now in bed with the betting agencies, so closely linked that the AFL relies on the money, while at the same time warning the AFL players of the dangers of gambling.  It was pleasing that some of the players have made comments about this irony recently, and with many AFL players now family men, they are also acutely aware of the responsibility they have to raise their own children in a gambling free environment – which is difficult to avoid when their kids are watching daddy on TV and there is a sports betting ad or odds update during every commercial break after a goal has been kicked.

GAMBLING advertising during AFL games is “out of control” according to Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood.

Wood took to Twitter during the telecast of Friday night’s AFLW game between the Bulldogs and Adelaide to raise his concerns and asked fans whether they agreed.

Wood’s tweet was retweeted more than 1000 times and had more than 2700 likes. Most of the replies were strong in their support, however some queried whether he would be prepared to play for less money if the gaming industry pulled its financial support for the game.

In a note attached to the tweet, he said the Bulldogs this week had their annual education session with the AFL, which he described as “both informative and well run.”

But he questioned why there was so much gambling advertising if gambling was such a big issue that it required an annual information session from the League.

“Why – as an industry – do we support the onslaught of gambling advertising you’re now faced with when watching an AFL game?” he wrote in the tweet.

“The obvious issue here is the effect this advertising has on children every time we pull on our boots. The big question is do we think the normalization of gambling – particularly to kids – is acceptable in this day and age?”

Friday night’s match was broadcast live on Fox Footy in Victoria, but the gambling industry advertises across all forms of live sport. The industry standard is that 10 per cent of advertising during live sport broadcasts can promote sports betting.

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Easton Wood

RESOLVING the issues surrounding gambling in the AFL won’t be easy but the conversation needs to happen, Geelong veteran Harry Taylor says.

Taylor said it was a concern to him that the eldest of his three children was able to name the gambling-related advertisements he saw when watching sport on TV.

However he said further education and discussion were critical if answers were to be found on the appropriate relationship between gambling and professional sport.

“When my eldest can name a lot of the ads on TV, that is a bit of a worry,” Taylor said.

“It’s certainly something that we need to keep talking about [and] educating people about. It’s not as simple as just cutting them out of the AFL.”

Western Bulldogs premiership skipper Easton Wood put the issue back on the agenda at the weekend when he questioned the level of gambling advertising during televised AFL games.

Wood wrote on social media: “Do we think the normalisation of gambling – particularly to kids – is acceptable in this day and age?”

Taylor said more education was needed for AFL players and society in general.

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From the Age, July 15 2016

by Greg Baum

When Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie announced their mission to loosen the nexus between gambling and sport in Australia on Thursday, it was not hard to imagine that in the offices of some corporate bookies, the first thing they did was to frame a market on the likelihood of the politicians’ success, complete with cash-back options and bonus bets.

The next thing would have been to commission an advertising campaign featuring a bar and a couple of dorky young men frothing at their mouths while stroking their unshaven chins – quite dextrous, really – and two young women in the background, bestowing on them a patronising roll of their eyes.

“This is the gift horse everyone makes sure keeps its mouth shut.” Illustration: Jim Pavlidis.

It used to be said that Australians would bet on two flies crawling up a wall. It was an innocent enough image, implying friendly competition between mates at the manageable level of whatever they had in their pockets at the time, even if it did gloss over the certainty that one of them would always pick the wrong fly, yet refuse to give up, convince himself that the next fly on the other wall was a dead-set cert and be wrong again, with consequences no one much talked about then.

Now the cliche would be that Australians would bet on any two of thousands of contingencies arising out of happenings – not always sport – anywhere in the world, offered to them by a corporate bookie and outlaid and – sometimes – redeemed at the push of a smartphone button, no longer limited to loose change and ready cash, nor even by state or international borders, not restricted at all. Merry-making mates and the girls who so generously indulge them don’t come into it, no matter what the ads say.

The punt has become institutionalised, a miserable process. Australians used to be sceptical about institutions. Now we wear their T-shirts.

I can’t remember an election campaign like the most recent in the way the bookies’ markets were reported and dwelled upon about as prominently as the polls. The usual justification was that polls were not reliable, but the bookies rarely got it wrong. But they did this time.

Where does that leave us? Here, that the gambling industry has infiltrated every part of Australian life and become a massive force in it. Expect at the next election to hear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – if it is still him – declare not that he is confident of victory, but that he sees himself as a $1.05 chance.

We’ll confine ourselves here to sport. There, it is a matter of following the money. If you bet on sport, some part of your wager goes to a television network in the form of advertising revenue, then on to a sporting body as vast rights fees. If you play the pokies at a club venue, the profits go directly to the club and form a major and growing part of their incomes (but not at North Melbourne). Downstream, this leads to social dysfunction estimated by some to be as endemic as the legacy of alcohol abuse.

But this is the gift horse everyone makes sure keeps its mouth shut.

Sports bodies make vague noises about social commitment and their dedication to developing other forms of income, all the while collecting more and more of this guaranteed jackpot. Just this week, it emerged that Collingwood had promised renovations to a pokies pub it owns in Ringwood, but only if it was allowed to install 10 more machines. Bookies are no better: they preach responsible gambling, but pay fast-moving lip service to it in almost comical disclaimers at the end of ads, small print in smaller voices.

The least but most obvious effect of all this calculated conditioning is to the amenity of the sports fan. Whether on television or at the ground, the bookies and their spiel are in your face: in ads, on an expert panel, on the scoreboard, in the call. Briefly, even the industry realised that they were giving people the irrits, and pulled their heads in, but only a little. This is where Xenophon and Wilkie would like to start, by reducing or even banning gambling advertising during sports broadcasts and at venues.

They know the power of the medium, for good and evil. That power was central to successful crusades on smoking and the road toll.

Just this week, it was announced that the AIDS epidemic in Australia was over. That fight began with a spectacularly memorable public education campaign more than 20 years ago. If messaging makes this sort of impact, then so must its absence. The Australian Wagering Council knows this. Its defence of the status quo is that betting advertising can be a force for good, directing punters to Australian providers rather than those nasty off-shore outfits.

Political will is negligible. In the election campaign, gambling reform was a non-issue, not mentioned by Labor or the Coalition and rarely even by the Greens, who have the most stringent policy.

The many schisms in the new Parliament offer hope for Xenophon and Wilkie, but only if one of the major parties warms to their objective, which seems unlikely. Otherwise, they might as well try fence in the industry with fly swats. They won’t surrender, but the bookies would say that you can have $10 the pollies, with the margin set at 80 points of order.

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/gambling-reform-dont-bet-on-it-20160715-gq6rxh.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-22/social-media-games-potential-gateway-to-problem-gambling/7346018

By Norman Hermant

People who play simulated gambling games for free online are more likely to become problem gamblers in real life, according to a report from the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC).

Report’s key findings:

  • Children are more exposed to gambling than ever before
  • Online games are blurring the lines between simulated and real gambling
  • The games create unrealistic expectations about real-life gambling

The report also said the easy access to free gambling games on smart phones and tablets was a major concern.

The AGRC — part of Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies — said more and more people saw gambling as a part of everyday life and they were being exposed to gambling at younger ages than ever before.

“Young people today are growing up around these electronic games,” said Anna Thomas, one of the authors of the Is It Gambling Or A Game? report.

“This is introducing gambling to them at a much younger age than you’d normally expect.”

The report — a compilation of online gambling related research over the last 15 years — said the proliferation of gambling games raised a number of red flags:

  • Because the online games are so realistic, the lines between simulated gambling and real life “commercial” gambling are increasingly blurred.
  • Simulated gambling is accessed increasingly through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Players are heavily exposed to commercial gambling site advertising on these sites.
  • In simulated games, players are protected from the consequences of losing — they can just play again if their luck turns. That creates unrealistic expectations of gambling in real life.

“That’s the danger of these kinds of games,” said Jake Newstadt, who sought help for his gambling problems two years ago.

“They kind of plant potential messages inside of us that we’re not really aware of.”

 

‘It can become quite addictive’: reformed gambler

Mr Newstadt, 25, started gambling at age 12.

He now works as a project worker helping problem gamblers. He is not surprised by the popularity of simulated gambling games — everything from slot machines, to roulette, to online poker.

“On some level, these games do the same thing as real gambling,” he said.

“They trigger something in the brain where there’s this moment of anxiety about not knowing whether this result is going to go our way or not … and that pattern can become quite addictive.”

The AGRC report also raised concerns about online games that disguise their gambling components.

These games have nothing to do with gambling as a central theme. But they have opportunities to gamble embedded in the game.

The wildly popular online game Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is largely a first person shooter.

But players quickly learn the action is also a platform for numerous gambling games.

“They don’t explicitly say it, but that’s definitely what it is,” said 19-year-old Ashley Walton, who has been playing CS:GO for three years.

In CS:GO, players can purchase keys for around $3. The keys open digital cases, which reveal “prizes” a player can win — mostly different kinds of weapons to use in the game.

In a display box on the screen, the potential prizes slide by until one stops in the prize window.

“That was probably the first time I actually dabbled in gambling with real money,” said Mr Walton.

There is no limit on how many keys a player can buy. The prizes vary in value in an off-site digital aftermarket, where buyers will pay up to $1,000 for very rare items.

But Mr Walton said most of the prizes were worth less than the $3 the keys cost.

“The appeal for me was I just wanted to make money from it, while getting the items I wanted,” he said.

“But that fell through.”

Most parents unaware of simulated gambling

Anna Thomas from The Australian Gambling Research Centre said most parents were not aware of the gambling features embedded in many games.

“It can be a game that overtly has nothing to do with gambling,” she said.

“You may have no idea that (your kids) are actually going into a room … and having that experience in another game that’s really something completely different to gambling.”

One of the report’s key recommendations is much more thorough regulation of these games.

Currently, computer games are regulated by the Commonwealth’s Classification Board.

“There’s a need for much more consistent and comprehensive information and advice,” Ms Thomas said.

“You might have the same game that on one platform is rated M, on another platform may have no rating at all, or 12 plus. Very little information to guide players or parents who are looking at the games that their children are playing.”

 

AAP
April 3, 2016 7:45 PM

WHATEVER the solution to the AFL’s vexed issue of betting, League chief executive Gillon McLachlan is adamant it is not prohibition.

McLachlan admits there is some unease within the AFL about whether the League and its clubs should benefit from betting revenue, given the well-known social problems of gambling addiction.

But he added that there was a balance on issues such as gambling advertising at matches.

McLachlan said the AFL had worked with TV broadcasters so there were no live odds shown while the game was being played.

“People’s views are different – a number of people have very strong views about wagering,” he told ABC radio on Sunday.

“I have a view that is not universal around the AFL … that things that are legal and part of our game, our job is then to contextualise that.

“I’m also real about wagering – we are better off having relationships with wagering companies than not because we get access to information.

“We can protect the integrity of our competition.”

McLachlan added the revenue from gambling sponsorship helped the game’s growth but said it was an issue debated “reasonably regularly” at League headquarters.

He also said there is evidence that betting habits are changing, rather than more people are gambling on sport.

“The data basically is that betting is not growing, it’s just skewing from racing across to sport,” he said.

“The runaway train that people are talking about is not reflected in the numbers, (they’re) referring to a change.

“Maybe that means there’s a different profile of the people who are betting.

“I’m not in denial of the problem … the solutions are not as easy as people would think.”

With the idea being manufactured that gambling and AFL go hand in hand, the AFL is willingly normalising sports betting as an integral part of being an AFL fan.  Generations of young Australians will grow up believing that betting on the footy is a normal part of being an AFL fan, and the AFL is allowing this due to the revenue they generate from their affiliation and sponsorship with the sports betting companies.  Personally I think it is totally irresponsible to put the dollar ahead of the welfare of a generation of punters who could potentially have any number of gambling problems and addictions in the future.

Beaner

Gambling ads dominate AFL’s round one broadcasts

Richard Willingham.  April 1, 2016

Despite a community backlash, gambling advertising continues during TV broadcasts.

Football fans watching round one on TV were bombarded with gambling advertising, with more than one in six ads promoting gaming.

Despite a ban on ads for gambling during game time, data shows it was the second biggest advertising category over the four AFL games shown on free-to-air TV in Melbourne last weekend. Automotive was the biggest advertiser.

Of the nearly 200 ads screened in the Richmond v Carlton, Sydney v Collingwood, Port Adelaide v St Kilda, and Geelong v Hawthorn matches, 34 were for gambling.

CrownBet, the “official wagering partner of the AFL”, accounted for half of the advertising, with other bookies including Sportsbet and Bet365.

There has long been community concern about the proliferation of gambling ads. This is particularly so in sport, where experts have raised concerns that the association between sports and betting is “grooming” children by normalising betting.

Under an industry code of conduct, gambling promotion is banned “siren to siren” but is allowed to be screened before and after matches and during quarter and half-time breaks.

The Victorian government and many interest groups have urged the review of online gambling laws to look at stronger rules governing gambling advertising. Its report has yet to be released.

Samantha Thomas, a public health academic at Deakin University, said gambling was “a very adult product” which was being prolifically marketed in matches promoted by the AFL as being “family friendly”.

“There is a very clear ethical tension here that the AFL and broadcasters have not adequately addressed,” Dr Thomas said. “Kids tell us that it is the marketing that they see during sport that makes them think that gambling is a normal part of sport.”

“The AFL and broadcasters need to respond to community concerns and start to show some leadership in this area; putting the welfare of the community over the money they are making from gambling sponsorship deals.”

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation chief executive Serge Sardo said there was widespread concern about the relationship between sport and betting.

“We are concerned that gambling advertising is changing the way our youth view spot; we are worried about the long-term impact,” Mr Sardo said.

The foundation wants gambling advertising banned from all G-classified TV programs.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform chairman Geoff Lake has demanded the TV networks stop advertising gambling to children.

“It’s that simple,” he said. “This normalises an adult product in the minds of young and impressionable footy fans. If the networks aren’t careful, they could end up killing the golden goose, with parents just turning the TV off.”

The Australian Wagering Council said gambling advertising had to comply with a code of conduct.

“Australian Wagering Council members do recognise community concern in relation to wagering advertising and agree that advertising should always conform to accepted social standards,” a spokeswoman said.

“AWC members will continue to work with sport’s controlling bodies and government to address any concerns.”

Melbourne Football Club has become the ninth Victorian footy club to sign Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s responsible gambling charter, which includes a ban on a partnership with any sports betting agency or gambling promotion.

The charter has been criticised because most AFL clubs have poker machine venues, but the foundation says the charter requires extra levels of responsibility in pokies.

The AFL said it had no role in the operation of the broadcasting code, but it was the league’s understanding that broadcasts always adhered to the limits on advertising.

Channel Seven said it complies with the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice which contains extensive restrictions in relation to gambling advertising, particularly in programming directed towards children.

“Provisions introduced in 2013 also prevent the advertising of odds during live sports broadcasts,” a spokesman said.

“Commercial television free-to-air broadcasters are the only media platform with such comprehensive rules around the placement and broadcast of gambling advertising.”

Bookmakers were also contacted for comment.

AFL 2016: Gambling revenue the AFL’s dirtiest cash cow

Caroline Wilson
April 2, 2016
Gillon McLachlan took more than a week to respond to the Collingwood illicit drugs controversy. By then the so-called “noise” had almost gone quiet and the minds of a multitude of supporters made up but still when the AFL chief finally did speak he made a lot of sense.
McLachlan slammed the calls for zero tolerance as “insane” and then offered on his regular Friday 3AW gig some nice diversionary calls such as a wish to try football in New Zealand again one day despite its first foray flopping. And potentially awarding Jared Tallent his belated London gold medal at the MCG on grand final day.

It was only when broadcaster Neil Mitchell turned the subject to gaming that the AFL boss came down with a case of the mumbles. This is because McLachlan has nowhere to go on this issue and he knows it.

He’s not alone. Despite devoting increasing resources to fighting corruption and shielding the game from the growing international threat of match fixing; gambling revenue remains the AFL’s dirtiest cash cow.

That the competition continues to thrust betting on a daily basis into the hearts and minds of all its supporters of all ages remains a source of some discomfort to the AFL Commission and so it should.

Having chosen years ago to take up – with varying degrees of success – social leadership in the form of indigenous Australians, women, drugs and more recently homophobia and domestic violence; the AFL remains as hooked on gambling revenue as the clubs McLachlan was questioned about on Friday.

The deal it struck with CrownBet last year remains a Goliath in Australian sporting sponsorship with the betting partner smashing its category to the tune of almost double its nearest opponent. What resulted was a five-year deal worth close to $50 million.

The AFL’s corporate partnerships reaped $55 million from late 2014 through 2015 – roughly one-third of its $182 million commercial operations revenue which increased by 11 per cent from the previous year.

At an estimated $10 million annually the CrownBet deal is a beast and an exclusive arrangement which has led so many clubs towards lucrative deals with problem gambling groups simply because the AFL deal has priced some former club betting deals out of the market.

And the AFL delivers in spades. On the face of it, CrownBet owns AFL.com, the nation’s biggest sporting website. In an era when digital assets have never been more powerful, the AFL’s website would indicate that Australian rules football and betting are inexorably linked and that the game is all about the hip pocket, taking a financial punt with the push of a button.

It is hard to argue with the AFL taking a percentage of every football bet given that all sports do so. But surely the hypocrisy of taking so much money out of an industry which has created such a vast social problem and one which has gone hand-in-hand with international sporting corruption must play on the conscience of the commissioners.

Particularly when they now directly play such a role in introducing children to gambling. As if the saturation advertising on TV and radio during AFL broadcast isn’t bad enough. And yet no senior figure appears prepared to show leadership.

Even Colin Carter, the Geelong chairman who this week accused the industry of being complicit in the damage done by poker machines, smacked of double standards when he said his club would love to sell its pokies but couldn’t currently afford to.

Particularly children who attend when every game at Simonds Stadium are inundated by bet365 LED signage. The Cats are no longer sponsored by the betting agency but sold their signage rights to a broker who covers the cost of setting up the LED and in turn gains 20 per cent of the signage as a pay-off.

So like McLachlan’s comments on radio on Friday there is an arm’s length mentality that pervades the Geelong’s betting advertising at the same time the respected club chief speaks wishfully of turning his back on it.

Having met late last year with anti-gaming crusaders Tim Costello and Nick Xenophon over the clubs’ unhealthy reliance on pokies, McLachlan has made no definitive statement on the problem — in 2015 nine Victorian clubs took close to $90 million from gaming machines and their victims.

Only North Melbourne have given away the pokies with Hawthorn’s multimillion-dollar profits so heavily reliant on their gaming booty and with the pokies representing some 20 per cent of the clubs’ total revenue.

And yet the AFL has failed to support Costello’s call for con-free machines, several days ago responding with a wishy-washy statement on the issue instead.

With the AFL and NRL finals upon us, along with the rugby world cup, and the horse racing spring carnival just around the corner, the sports betting companies have gone into over drive with their advertising campaigns to try and get the average punter to bet with them. Any number of money back specials and bonus bets and best odds are being promoted on TV, radio, in newspapers and on the internet and in many smart phone apps, and virtually around the clock. This article claims the sports betting companies are fighting for a share of the $21 billion wagered by Aussies on sports betting and racing each year. That is a serious amount of money. You could argue that the competition for our gambling dollar is giving punters better odds and better deals, but the reality is the majority of gamblers will be losing money in the long run; a very large majority. The sports betting companies have done a great job in ‘normalising’ gambling, where betting on sports now seems to go hand in hand with watching the sports themselves and this to me as the greatest issue as the next generations of young Australians growing up are just going to accept sports betting as a part of life (much like the baby boomers and subsequent generations of TV watchers were conditioned to accept advertising as a part of the TV watching experience).

The bottom line is the state and federal governments are doing very little to slow down the growth of the gambling industry in Australia, mainly due to the amount of money they are earning from taxation. I think the freedom to be able to have a bet on a sporting event if you choose to is great, and many of us enjoy this freedom as a bit of escapism. I can only imagine where things are going to be in 10 years time though if the sports betting companies are left unchecked in their expansion in to the Australian way of life through advertising and their constant hard sell.

Beaner

Sports betting companies spend big on ads but the regulator is watching

Natalie O’Brien and Perry Williams
Published: September 27, 2015

It has catchy music, glamorous young things enjoying glitzy nightclub settings, and promises that every time you bet you will earn reward points to redeem in resorts, hotels, restaurants, casinos and bars.  Viewers of the expensive television marketing campaign are enticed to “transform your betting experience wherever you are in Australia”.

The only trouble with this attention-grabbing promotion being shown in prime time on commercial channels and on social media is that the James Packer-controlled CrownBet​running the ads may be in breach of the NSW state gaming regulations.

The ads are not the only ones being shown that offer inducements or rewards for gambling. There is a war on between sports betting companies for the gambling dollar – which is estimated at more than $21 billion a year –  and a number of marketing campaigns have caught the attention of the NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing.

A spokesman for OLGR said the CrownBet promotion first came to their attention as part of its monitoring program.

“OLGR has advised the company that its promotion is suspected of being in breach of NSW’s Racing Administration Regulation 2012 by offering inducements to gamble and failing to exclude NSW residents,” said the spokesman. “The company will be provided with an opportunity to respond prior to a final decision on regulatory action being taken.”

While the investigation is under way, the advertisements are still running in prime time TV slots.  CrownBet is one of a number of companies under investigation by OLGR over regulatory breaches, however the watchdog won’t reveal which other companies are being looked at. A spokesman for CrownBet declined to comment.

The maximum fine for companies under the NSW regulations is $5500. It pales in comparison to the amount being spent on advertising for gambling. The Standard Media Index (SMI) shows that in the year to August $149.1 million was spent on gambling ads, up from $104.5 million for the same period last year and more than double the $68.7 spent for the same period in 2012.

The index also shows most money is spent on metropolitan television and on subscription television, although the outlay on digital media is rising.

NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye says the fines handed out to companies found to be breaching regulations are not high enough and are seen by the industry as just a cost of doing business. Kaye says he believes the advertising campaigns show a callous disregard for problem gamblers.

“It is a high-profit business where the revenue is increasingly focused on problem gambling and websites are specifically targeting young adult males who are known to be most susceptible to reward programs.”

Up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming or are problem gamblers, according to an Australian government problem gambling website. It estimates the social cost of problem gambling to be $4.7 billion.

Some of the industry players offering rewards and bonuses include the Tom Waterhouse company, which is offering punters $100 bonus credits if they deposit $30 in a start-up account. Although this ad does say it excludes NSW, Victorian, West Australian and South Australian residents.

Rival firm Sportsbet also is offering a promotion where you deposit $25 and get a $75 bonus bet. It too says this excludes NSW, Vic, WA and SA.

International betting giant William Hill has kick-started a promotional campaign with TV spots offering money back to gamblers. The “own the moment” campaign says William Hill’s offer of money back means “real money – dollars in your account to do with whatever you like”.

Tim Costello, the chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, says the marketing campaigns are predatory and unacceptable. He says parents are outraged that they can’t protect their kids from this advertising.

“In a sense, we are essentially conditioning young people to believe that this is normal,” he says.

One of the pioneers of internet gambling in Australia, Matthew Tripp, says the surge of competition in the market also reflects a demand from punters to bet on their smart phones instead of visiting their local TAB.

“It’s a shift from on course, retail and telephone to online,” says Tripp, who now runs CrownBet.

The barrage of advertising gives the impression of a booming wagering market, but the bookmaker says that’s not quite the case.

“The awareness is heightened but certainly the gambling dollar hasn’t gone through the roof. The online market as a whole is growing at a rate of between 10 per cent to 15 per cent year on year but the overall sector is tracking in line with the economy.”

Tripp rode the market better than most. After shunning university to follow his father Alan into bookmaking, the 40-year-old made his fortune selling Sportsbet to Irish wagering giant Paddy Power for $115 million.

He then switched to a new online betting start-up, BetEasy, before James Packer’s Crown Resorts took control of the firm and rebadged it as CrownBet, with Tripp as its boss.

CrownBet caused a stir in sporting circles in August after signing a deal to broadcast AFL matches online via its apps through 2016.

Tripp says it reflects the huge popularity of the footy code – along with horse racing – among its punters, but acknowledges the crowded market makes it increasingly hard to stand out.

“Everything has a tipping point and I think we are just about to reach ours in the online wagering space,” he says. “You can certainly over-saturate in the market and I think you’ll find some of the European operators are certainly doing that. You need to pick that market and turn the dial up or down in line with consumer sentiment.”

By offering a rewards program linked to Crown’s hotel and casino offerings, Tripp says CrownBet is focusing on loyalty rather than instant rewards and credit offers.

“The offerings that are out there at the moment are very homogenous and frankly it’s a bit of a race to the bottom. Bet with us and win lose or draw you will gain something for your loyalty rather than getting your money back if your horse runs eighth in a race.”

The next few months will go a long way to defining the success of CrownBet and its rivals performance this year with the all-important spring horse racing season and footy finals generating a huge share of the firms’ annual revenue.

Executives like Tripp are also keeping an eagle eye on Canberra.

Former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell has been handed the task of reviewing the federal government’s outdated Interactive Gambling Act which governs the way technology can be used within the industry.

O’Farrell’s review, due in mid December, will also weigh how to provide more safeguards for the industry, given problem gambling rates are three times higher among online gamblers than traditional betting methods.

Gamblers will also be looking for guidance from the review over the controversial in-play betting system, promoted by international players William Hill and Bet 365, which allows punters to bet live on sports via their smart phones.

You can bet on the outcome of an event in Australia after it has begun but only via the phone or in person. However, British company William Hill claims that as long as punters keep their smart phone microphone on, it still adheres to the rule that live bets during sporting events are made by phone only.

Tripp says he wants to see a level playing field for all operators.

“The European operators continue to tread a very fine line in the way they conduct their business. We need to do everything in our power to ensure the government and obviously our customer base are happy with the middle ground that is found within the review.”

In 2013, the Department of Communications report into the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 called for industry to establish an advertising code of conduct to ensure advertising is not contrary to community standards and expectations.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Wagering Council, the peak body that represents the online sports betting and wagering industry in Australia including current members Bet365, Sportsbet, Unibet, the William Hill Group Australia and Betfair, says they are fully supportive of the recommendation and it is committed to working with industry, regulators and the wider community to ensure a code is developed sooner rather than later.

But she says that any discussion on the impact of advertising on problem gambling should note the recent report from Gambling Research Australia, The Marketing of Sports Betting and Racing, which concedes it is not possible to determine whether a causal relationship exists between problem gambling and exposure to gambling advertising in general, or to wagering and sports-related gambling advertising in particular.

“It’s important to note that legislation in each state and territory regulates the use of inducements and AWC members comply with those regulations. Statutory prohibition on the use of inducements in some states has seen a natural decline in the use of inducements across the wagering sector,” she says.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform that reported in 2013, says the proliferation of sports betting is a serious cause for concern.

“People are especially sick of wall-to-wall gambling advertising, particularly during G-rated television periods. Moreover the problem is only getting worse with the advertising spending going up and the amount being waged increasing dramatically,” he says.

Wilkie says the committee released a report into sports betting two years ago which provides a number of recommendations but both the “current and former governments have failed to act or do anything meaningful to address the problem”.

“For a start gambling advertising needs to be reined in and stopped altogether during daytime TV. Inducements and credit must be banned. And effective harm minimisation measures should be mandated.

“The current government inquiry into online gambling, including sports betting, is a sham seeing as three of the four terms of reference are only to do with protecting Australian online gambling businesses from their overseas competitors.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sports-betting-companies-spend-big-on-ads-but-the-regulator-is-watching-20150925-gjv6xa.html

To think that problem gamblers could end up owing money to the agencies they have already lost all their money too is very disturbing to me. Like the growth in payday loan companies, problem punters can get drawn to the idea that they can bet today and pay it back tomorrow, especially if they have the belief they are going to win. The reality though is that the majority will lose, and the few that may win this time will no doubt lose the next week or the week after, for if this blog has taught you anything, you’ll know that winning consistently on sports betting is difficult, and it is never easy to turn a profit no matter how good a tipster or insightful a gambler you are. The lure of landing the big payoff bet is a false hope too, for again, as many punters that do pull this off once in a while, there are many more that try and fail and end up losing all their money chasing the big one.

I read about a punter who had a big bet on the EPL soccer last weekend (22nd August 2015), betting $15 000 on Swansea to beat Sunderland at 2 to 1. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. A quick analysis under the good bet theory shows that they were betting on a match with 3 possible outcomes while only getting a 2-1 return, which is not a good bet. If they’d bet on the draw, they would have got odds of about 3.30, which is a good return over the 3 outcomes. And I don’t care how big a favourite one team is over the other pre-match, on the ground anything can happen and there is no such thing as a sure thing in sport, and to bet on an event believing you can’t lose is always going to be reckless. And if one team is heavily favoured over another to win, then the odds will reflect this and the return will be so low it would not be worth gambling on, for the likelihood of a small return does not outweigh the risk of an upset result.

You would hope that the government and authorities will take steps to block this option for punters to get loans from sports betting agencies, but there is a conflict of interest too as any drop in gambling revenue will mean a drop in the amount of tax the governments collect. It is in the government’s best interest for their citizens to gamble at the current levels to maintain the expected income, which would also be factored into the yearly budgets. As has been discussed before, governments are now reliant on this stream of income. I’ve no doubt they do have a desire to help problem gamblers, but they are also more than happy for the rest of the population to gamble just enough, just below the threshold of what is classified as a problem gambler. Move along, nothing to see here…

Beaner

Sports betting: call to ban unsolicited credit offers as problem gambling rises
‘If this is the future of gambling, it is indeed frightening,’ says peak body for financial counsellors, concerned at tactics used to draw in punters

Michael Safi

Monday 17 August 2015

Sports betting agencies should be “urgently” banned from extending credit to punters, a new report has recommended, amid signs of a surge in gamblers seeking help for excessive online betting.
Inducements, unsolicited credit, tactically withholding payouts, and possible breaches of the Privacy Act are some of the alleged methods employed by sports betting agencies in a largely “uncontrolled” industry, according to the report by Financial Counselling Australia (FCA).

“If this is the future of gambling, it is indeed frightening,” the report said, arguing that if credit was not banned, bookmakers should at least be forced to comply with credit laws requiring them to formally assess whether a punter has any chance of repaying credit.

It also called for new punters to be required to nominate a maximum bet amount, a ban on advertising links between payday lenders and sports betting sites, and a national register for people who want to self-exclude (rather than each company keeping a separate register).

Betting revenues are thought to have surged since the proliferation of smart phones and legal changes allowing betting sites to advertise during sports broadcasts.

Just how much is being gambled online on sport is yet to be quantified, but the advertising spend by betting agencies increased fourfold between 2010 and 2013 to nearly $48m, according to monitoring firm Ebiquity.

Gambling help clinics in Melbourne and Sydney have reported a tripling and doubling respectively in the number of sports betting clients they have treated in the past few years, according to an investigation by ABC Radio’s Background Briefing.
Launching the report on Monday, the independent senator Nick Xenophon said he would introduce a bill shortly to ban betting on credit.

“[Online sports betting] turbocharges the risks of problem gambling. Internet sports betting firms are using aggressive, high-tech strategies to target young men, increasingly to the point of ruin,” he said.

One case study included in the report detailed how one man was offered up to $500 in free bets by one betting company, and went on to gamble away the proceeds of the sale of his home.

In another, a man attempted suicide due to his gambling debts and emerged from hospital to an offer by one company to take him to a boxing match.

At least one customer already in debt was encouraged to whittle down what he owed by betting more and was offered extra credit, according to an email obtained by FCA.

“We were also told by a former employee that sports betting companies swap customer account data, contrary to privacy legislation,” the report said.

“When a gambler ‘goes cold’ and stops betting with one company, the company swaps lists with another company, which then entices the person to resume gambling.”

The Australian Wagering Council (AWC), an industry group, said it would “carefully examine the issues” raised in the report, but said new regulations on the gambling operators were “unnecessary”.

“There is no evidence-based research to suggest that changes in consumer behaviour, including customers choosing sports betting in preference to other forms of gambling … has led to an increase in problem gambling,” it said.

“Wagering on sport comprises only 2.3% of Australia’s total annual gambling spend, with the vast majority, 52.4%, of Australia’s gambling happening on poker machines in pubs and clubs.”

The AWC said it agreed with the call for a national self-exclusion register and that credit – which it said had always been available from bookmakers – should never be offered unsolicited.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/aug/17/sports-betting-call-to-ban-unsolicited-credit-offers-as-problem-gambling-rises

It is sad to see that governments in some states and territories are making it easy for people with gambling addictions to blow their money.  The gambling industry was opposed to the reforms of the previous Gillard government, and now that the LNP are in charge, those reforms are all but gone or being ignored as problem gamblers are once again encouraged to spend their money on poker machines and the TAB in venues, pubs and clubs.  The power of the gambling industry is making this possible, where they have made large donations to governments at state and federal levels to win government support, where in return the government takes no action on recommended reforms and guidelines to help problem gamblers and people with gambling addictions as the increase in gambling revenue equates to an increase in their tax revenue.  This article poses the pertinent question; if Australians spend more per head on gambling than any other country, why are governments encouraging further growth of a harmful industry?  And the simple answer is that governments are themselves addicted and reliant on the tax generated from the gambling industry, to the point where the cost of reforms and restrictions to help problem gamblers outweighs their need to generate revenue from this insidious source.

Gambling pays off … for Australian governments

By Mike Steketee

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-17/steketee-gambling-pays-off-for-australian-governments/6625170

State and territory governments increasingly rely on gambling tax for revenue, which helps explain why Australia is currently going backwards on the issue despite clear evidence of a public health threat, writes Mike Steketee.

Two weeks ago, the Baird Government in NSW introduced changes to make life easier for serious poker machine players. That is part of a trend, with governments in Canberra, Queensland and the Northern Territory going down the same path. After its comprehensive demolition of the Gillard government’s reforms to tackle problem gambling, the gambling industry has pressed home its advantage by extracting further concessions to increase its profits, guarantee its further expansion, and increase the misery of the estimated 115,000 mainly low-income Australians with a serious gambling addiction – one mostly caused by the pokies. However, there are signs of pushback.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has been formed to co-ordinate the activities of church and community groups who speak for the 70 per cent of Australians who said in 2011 that gambling should be more tightly controlled. Separately, Neil Lawrence, the ad man who created the Kevin 07 campaign, has left a significant legacy after his sudden death this week in the Maldives: a powerful documentary, scheduled to be shown on the ABC, revealing how pokies are specifically engineered to encourage addiction. In the meantime, as a result of the most recent changes, gamblers in NSW clubs can now store $5,000 in an account or a smart card – a 25-fold increase from the previous standard limit of $200. As well, they can receive up to $5,000 of their winnings in cash, whereas previously amounts over $2,000 had to be paid by cheque or electronic funds transfer.

Monash University’s Charles Livingstone, an authority on gambling issues, says it is hard to fathom why a player would want $5,000 so readily at hand unless they had a very serious issue with poker machine gambling. He describes the other measure – raising the threshold for cheques or EFT to $5,000 – as “a recipe to ensure that problem gamblers … simply pour their winnings back into the machine ASAP”. But wait, that’s not all. In what the government argues is a counter-balance, there is a reduction from $10,000 to $7,500 in the maximum amount pokie players can insert and store in machines and an increase from three to six months in the minimum period problem gamblers can ban themselves from venues. If that looks like tokenism, that is because it is. Livingstone told me that the reduction from $10,000 to $7,500 is meaningless: This is supposed to be a harmless entertainment. Why on earth would you need to put $7,500 in a poker machine in a club or pub if it were genuinely merely harmless fun?

The only impact of this is to make money laundering slightly more difficult, but only slightly. He describes self-exclusion as a useful strategy for a small number of people, but says it is far more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The changes stem from a pre-election commitment by the NSW Liberals and Nationals to secure the support of Clubs NSW, the most powerful part of the lobby that mounted an expensive campaign to torpedo the Gillard government’s plans for gambling reform. The measures are spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that also includes a promise to “retain existing gaming machine operating conditions”, with any proposals for change requiring “rigorous assessment” and consultation. In other words, don’t dare lift a finger without telling us or we’ll hit you with another campaign. Needless to say, the public were not party to this agreement. There are some common themes in the backsliding by governments.

In Queensland, the Newman government also changed the rules to allow winnings of up to $5,000 to be paid in cash. Previously, jackpots could only be paid out by cheque and the cheque could not be cashed at the gambling venue for at least 24 hours – tougher rules than those that used to apply in NSW. Like the Baird Government, the Newman government justified this and a raft of other changes in the name of reducing red tape. Livingstone and his Monash University colleague Louise Francis had a different explanation in a report last year commissioned by the Anglican Church: This is clearly in the interests of EGM [electronic gaming machine or poker machine] venue operators and against the interests of people experiencing issues with gambling… In our opinion, this is a wholly detrimental measure that cannot be justified on ‘red tape reduction’ principles. Instead it appears intended to increase the likelihood that EGM users, especially problem gamblers who win substantial amounts, will, in all likelihood, lose those funds at the same venue.

The Queensland changes also increase the number of poker machines allowed under a club licence from 280 to 500, with a maximum of 300 at one venue. Livingstone and Francis said the likely effect would be to increase the average size of venues with poker machines and that it was well established that larger establishments generated more revenue per machine. “There is significant potential for exacerbating gambling related harm in vulnerable communities as a result of increasing allowable machine numbers in venues,” they said.

Last December, the Northern Territory Government announced an increase in the number of poker machines allowed in hotels from 10 to 20 and in clubs from 45 to 55. What of the $150,000 donation by the Australian Hotels Association to the governing Country Liberal Party before the last election? We have the word of Gaming Minister Peter Styles that it did not influence the Government’s decision. These measures are on top of the Abbott Government’s repeal last year, with Labor’s support, of the few measures that survived the onslaught from the clubs on the Gillard government.

They included limits on withdrawals from ATMs, the installation of so-called pre-commitment technology on replacement poker machines so as to allow players to nominate beforehand the maximum amount they were prepared to lose, and a trial of a mandatory pre-commitment scheme. Together, these decisions represent a big step in the wrong direction at a time when studies by the Productivity Commission and others have confronted us with the reality of problem gambling – bankruptcies, family break-ups, crime and suicide. Addiction to gambling is as much a public health issue as smoking or drug addiction. What governments have done is akin to re-introducing smoking in restaurants and bars.

Total gambling expenditure per head in Australia grew after inflation from $577 in 1986-87 to $1,179 in 2011-12. That meant total gambling losses of $20.5 billion in 2011-12, 84 per cent of it on gaming, with the rest on racing and sports betting. Considering Australians spend more per head on gambling than any other country, why are governments encouraging further growth of a harmful industry? Because government policy on gambling is compromised on multiple fronts. State and territory governments increasingly have relied on it for revenue, with their takings almost doubling after inflation to $5.5 billion in the 25 years to 2011-12.

With the growth of the industry has come the increase in the power of the clubs and hotel lobbies, and that power has included making political donations. In the Northern Territory, the Australian Hotels Association gave the same amount – $150,000 – to the Labor Party before the last election as to the Country Liberal Party. The last time there were meaningful measures to control gambling was in Victoria more than five years ago. They included a $5 maximum bet – a change Livingstone says was introduced without industry opposition. He adds that a $1 maximum would reduce the harmful effects of gambling, given that 80 per cent of problem gambling stems from poker machines. Among the politicians, only independents like Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie are prepared these days to stand up to the gambling lobby.

Wilkie put a bill for $1 bets, among other measures, before Parliament last November but the Abbott Government refused to allow it to come up for debate. Xenophon plans to introduce into the spring session of Parliament a bill to apply restrictions to online gambling. This is emerging as a threat, even while the much larger one from poker machines remains to be tackled.

This was a radio broadcast on Radio National 621am on Sunday the 5th July 2015.  I happened to hear it while driving to a 10-pin bowling tournament.  It isn’t dealing with sports betting, but it examines the trend that is emerging between using free game apps to introduce kids and teenagers to gambling.  This early introduction combined with massive gambling advertising campaigns on radio, TV and the internet is grooming the next generation of problem gamblers by normalising the industry to be a part of everyday life.  It is all about getting people to spend money, to gamble on winning more money, or in the case of the game apps, to win prizes within the game itself that have no monetary value.

The broadcast can be located here, with the full transcript below.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/fair-game-gambling-in-free-online-and-mobile-games/6580088

Gambling techniques are permeating free online and mobile app games. Social casino games that mimic real slot machines are among the most popular, with no restrictions on children playing. Ann Arnold investigates the convergence of gambling and gaming, which is rendering Australia’s interactive gambling laws obsolete.

A couple of years ago Arthur, who’s now 13, got slightly obsessed with a particular electronic game. He wasted a fair bit of money on it.

‘There’s this one car game, it has hero cars and you can only get them from mystery boxes.’

In this free game, you had to pay to unlock the mystery box. Arthur gradually became disillusioned.

‘They’re the really crazy cars, which are amazing, but it’s not actually possible to get them,’ the Melbourne teenager said.

Arthur spent ‘probably a couple of hundred dollars’, provided by his parents in small amounts over time, trying to get those amazing cars. But after a bit of research, he concluded no one was winning those cars, anywhere.

Arthur’s not the only one who’s found themselves wasting money amid an emerging screen culture of unregulated gambling for all ages.

Lots of games that don’t ostensibly have a gambling theme still include its imagery and concepts.

Then there are social casino games—played with others, online, using virtual currency. Those games in particular form a lucrative and fast-growing mini-industry.

Advertisements for either virtual or real online casinos are scattered throughout app games and social media.

Anti-gambling campaigner Senator Nick Xenophon says: ‘I don’t want the kids of today to become the problem gamblers of tomorrow.’

He despairs that Australia’s laws and regulators are unable to meet the challenge.

‘The Interactive Gambling Act was passed in 2001. It’s 14 years old. It may as well be 140 years old, because the industry has been very clever in outsmarting regulators and the legislation.’

The convergence of gambling and gaming is happening so quickly there’s been little evaluation of it.

Dr Sally Gainsbury, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Gambling Education and Research at Southern Cross University, has led a ground-breaking research project, commissioned by Gambling Research Australia.

‘It’s looking at how social media, gaming and gambling are all converging. It’s really transforming the nature of gambling in Australia,’ she says.

The full report will be released by the federal government but preliminary findings have been made available to Background Briefing.

A cross-section of the Australian population was surveyed: over 1,500 adults, and 560 adolescents.

Most people were not affected by online gambling games and promotions.

One third of the respondents had played social casino games, with virtual currency, in the past 12 months. Of the adults who’d played social casino games, one in five were prompted by that experience to gamble for real money.

For adolescents, it was more than a quarter who went on to actually gamble. They played pokies and casino-style card games, and bet on the races or other sports.

People who reported a high level of gambling problems were the most likely to say their gambling increased after playing social casino games. Others said, however, that virtual gambling was a safe alternative for them.

For this project, Dr Gainsbury led a team of researchers from several institutions in Australia and Canada.

‘This is the first study. In fact, it’s the most comprehensive study that’s been done worldwide,’ she said.

The aim was to get a ‘really comprehensive understanding of whether social media, gambling themed games are impacting on how much people do gamble’.

As well as social casino games, which are legal, the study looked at real casinos sites online, hosted offshore. These sites are not permitted in Australia, but they’re still easily accessed.

Dr Gainsbury says Australian legislation is ineffective in preventing illegal gambling sites, and the law has been outpaced by technological developments. She points out that the Interactive Gambling Act was drawn up before Facebook existed. The Act allows lotteries, and wagering—such as sports betting. It bans the provision of all other online gambling.

But the international online casino operators have so far been out of reach of Australian authorities.

There haven’t been any sites prosecuted, which means Australians can access at any stage online casino sites, which include blackjack, poker, and electronic game machines, Dr Gainsbury says.

‘There isn’t actually anything stopping Australian residents from gambling on these sites, but it’s highly ill advised because, for example, if they do have a dispute, if they’re cheated or defrauded, there’s nothing they can do to get their money back.’

The study also looked at the proliferation of social media promotions for gambling and virtual gambling.

At one stage 13-year-old Arthur was playing a game called Temple Run. If you ‘died’ in the game, he says, you could watch an ad to get a second life. They were often ads for gambling games.

‘And I know they’re gambling games,’ he said, ‘because it shows pictures of slots, and they say you’ll win and you’ll win and you’ll win.’

Arthur has a relative with gambling problems, so his father Danny says he’s made a point of alerting Arthur to the risks. But he wonders how many parents are aware of the extent of exposure to gambling in their children’s game play.

Ann Arnold: It’s been one of the most popular mobile games in the world, Crossy Road. You have to get a series of colourful, block-like characters—Scruffy Dog, Mad Bull, Unihorse and the rest—across a busy road. And a river. And a railway. If your character dies, you go again.

Released late last year, it’s a big hit with primary school age kids, like Mika.

Mika: It’s kind of addictive, kinda. It’s just, like, so fast and you’re always trying to get between little gaps, and really fast fingers, and all sorts of cool stuff. And you can collect coins and different things, like they have new versions, they have lots of little upgrades and you can get new characters. And there’s some where…oh…I just died and I got a free gift as well. I just got 50 coins.

Ann Arnold: Crossy Road went to straight to number one in the family category charts in a dozen countries, including the US, Canada, France, Russia and South Korea. Little known outside the gaming world is the fact that it’s Australian-made.

It was created by a Victorian duo, calling themselves Hipster Whale. They’ve just won a coveted Apple design award in San Francisco:

Woman: Next up, a game from a classic genre. The winner is, Crossy Road, by Hipster Whale.

Man [voiceover]: Based in Australia, Hipster Whale was founded by Matthew Hall and Andrew Sum. The game was popular from day one, but it really struck a chord in schoolyards around the world. Since launching…

Ann Arnold: In its first 90 days, the game reportedly made $10 million. There’s a lot of buzz, and a lot of pride. But for some observers, Crossy Road is not ideal child’s play. Collecting characters in the game becomes a major focus for many younger players.

Ben Riley: The only way to get those characters is to essentially gamble for them, using the coins, the virtual currency within the game, feed them into the gaming machine, and pull the handle and see what you get.

Ann Arnold: Problem gambling therapist Ben Riley. While most players get their characters through the prize machine, as it’s called, they can also purchase them directly, with real money. But with Crossy Road‘s repetitive random chance, and a children’s version of a poker machine at its core, Ben Riley sees it as part of a growing trend.

It’s been little documented, but gambling or gambling ideas are permeating electronic games; video games, social media games, and mobile apps.

Mika: So I’m gonna win a prize…yeah, I just got a new one called the Grey Bunny. It might just be one that you’ve already got or one that you haven’t got. It comes up with random ones.

Ann Arnold: Hello, this is Background Briefing and I’m Ann Arnold.

There’s an emerging screen culture of unregulated gambling for all ages. Lots of games that don’t ostensibly have a gambling theme still have elements of it; imagery and concepts. Then there are social casino games, played with others, online, using virtual currency. Those games in particular form a lucrative and fast-growing mini-industry. Advertisements for both virtual and real online casinos are scattered throughout app games and social media.

Nick Xenophon: I don’t want the kids of today to become the problem gamblers of tomorrow. Our current legislative framework is simply outdated.

Ann Arnold: Anti-gambling campaigner Senator Nick Xenophon despairs that Australia’s laws and the regulators are unable to meet the challenge.

Nick Xenophon: The Interactive Gambling Act was passed in 2001. It’s 14 years old. It may as well be 140 years old, because the industry has been very clever in outsmarting regulators and the legislation.

Ann Arnold: There’s a convergence of gambling and gaming. It’s happening so quickly there’s been little evaluation of it.

Dr Sally Gainsbury has led a ground-breaking research project.

Sally Gainsbury: This study is commissioned by Gambling Research Australia. It’s looking at how social media, gaming and gambling are all converging. It’s really transforming the nature of gambling in Australia.

Ann Arnold: The full report will be released by the Federal government but preliminary findings have been made available to Background Briefing. A cross-section of the Australian population was surveyed, over 1,500 adults and 560 adolescents. Most people were not affected by online gambling games and promotions.

One-third of the respondents had played social casino games with virtual currency in the past 12 months. Of the adults who’d played social casino games, one in five were prompted by that experience to gamble for real money. For young people, it was one in three who went on to actually gamble. Adolescents bet on the races or other sports, and played pokies and casino-style card games. People who reported a high level of gambling problems were the most likely to say that their gambling had increased as a result of playing social casino games.

Sally Gainsbury is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Gambling Education and Research at Southern Cross University. For this project, she led a team of researchers from several institutions in Australia and Canada.

Sally Gainsbury: This is the first study, in fact it’s the most comprehensive study that’s been done worldwide. It took three years. It consisted of eight different studies. We’ve really looked at this issue across adults, across adolescents, to get a really comprehensive understanding of whether social media, gambling-themed games are impacting on how much people do gamble.

Ann Arnold: As well as social casino games, which are legal, the study looked at real casino sites online. These are hosted offshore and are not permitted in Australia, but they’re still easily accessed.

Sally Gainsbury says Australian legislation is ineffective in preventing illegal gambling sites, and the law has been outpaced by technological developments. The Interactive Gambling Act was drawn up before Facebook existed. The Act allows lotteries and wagering, such as sports betting. It bans the provision of all other online gambling. But the international online casino operators have so far been out of reach of Australian authorities.

Sally Gainsbury: There haven’t been any sites prosecuted, which means Australians can access at any stage online casino sites, which include blackjack, poker, electronic game machines. There isn’t actually anything stopping Australian residents from gambling on these sites, but it’s highly ill-advised because, for example, if they do have a dispute, if they’re cheated or frauded, there’s nothing they can do to get their money back.

Ann Arnold: Beyond these more overt gambling options, there are more subtle mechanisms at play in the fast-moving world of games.

Nich Richardson is the presenter of the ABC’s internet program Good Game Pocket, a daily update of game news and reviews. An ardent gamer, he is not happy about some of the techniques used by game developers to extract money out of players who’ve downloaded free or very cheap games. People are lured into paying to advance themselves within a game. And sometimes they’re simply buying the chance to progress. It’s a gamble.

Nich Richardson: It is worrying for me as a gamer of seeing how the industry is shifting towards those sorts of models that I go…it’s like a second form of gambling. It doesn’t necessarily need to lead you into the one where you’re throwing your life savings away in a casino, it can lead you into one where you just constantly are getting these huge credit card debts because you are just paying a bunch of money for something that isn’t a tangible experience.

Ann Arnold: Nich Richardson says in the games industry there is a term for the people who are willing to make significant or frequent in-game purchases.

Nich Richardson: Most players will not put any money into these sort of games but what developers are looking for are people called whales who are the people who will sink $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 a month into a game because they just are getting in that loop.

Ann Arnold: It’s no surprise to him that ‘whales’ is also the gambling industry’s term for big spenders.

Nich Richardson: It doesn’t surprise me. They both work off the same core idea of keeping you in an ecosystem in order to keep putting money into it.

Ann Arnold: Social casino games are providing a bonanza—for their operators. The players get no payouts, ever.

Sally Gainsbury: Social casino games are based on a social network site or through a mobile app, but they’re predominantly a gambling-themed game.

Ann Arnold: Sally Gainsbury, from Southern Cross University:

Sally Gainsbury: These are things that look like slot machines. They look like poker or blackjack. They really look at lot like…they’re actually referred to as simulated gambling games, so in some cases you can’t tell the difference between these games and actual gambling. But they also have really bright imagery, bright colours. They often have youth themes, so they might have lots of baby animals within them. So a slot machine with baby animals and lots of gold coins. So they’re very visually attractive and appealing.

Daniel Golding: If I go into the App Store and I actually look at this category called ‘top grossing’, so the games that have actually made the most money, we can see that the number one in Australia at the moment is an app called ‘Heart of Vegas: play free casino slots’.

Ann Arnold: Daniel Golding is a game reviewer and writer who lectures at Melbourne’s Swinburne University. Heart of Vegas is free to download. The spending comes later.

Daniel Golding: It’s a slot machine application where you pull the lever and the fruit rotates and you may or may not win. Now, of course this being an app you don’t actually win anything, you don’t get money out of this game. But you do have the option of putting money in. So if I look now at the list of in-app purchases, so the kinds of ways that you can put money into this game once you’ve downloaded it for free on your phone, we can see that it starts at like…you can buy a package of 150,000 coins for $3.79, all the way up to the quite phenomenal… you can buy a package of 105 million coins for $129.99. That $129 purchase is the eighth out of ten most popular purchase in this app. And so I think actually that is a real problem.

Ann Arnold: Game critic Dan Golding.

Heart of Vegas is owned by Aristocrat. Aristocrat is an Australian company which makes many of the poker machines you see in pubs and clubs around the country. It now has a strong foothold in the American pokies’ market as well. Aristocrat announced a 73% revenue growth in the six months to March this year. In the company’s latest annual report, the online portion of its business had the biggest increase on the previous year. The company attributed this to Heart of Vegas.

Researcher Sally Gainsbury says the growth of the social casino sector has been spectacular.

Sally Gainsbury: There was a study a few years ago that estimated that social casino games are played by about 173 million people worldwide. They’re hugely popular. It’s a massive market.

Ann Arnold: It’s also literally a money-spinner.

Sally Gainsbury: The social casino games (and keep in mind these are free-to-play games) is a hugely lucrative market. It’s estimated these games will make $3.4 billion this year worldwide.

Ann Arnold: Some social casino games encourage you to become a ‘VIP’ or a ‘high roller’ by buying virtual credits. Social casino games are more lucrative than any of the other games you find on Facebook and other social media. And slot casino games are the most popular of all.

Sally Gainsbury: So slot casino games look a lot like a regular slot machine. In fact, in many cases the makers of slot machines, including in Australia companies like IGT and Aristocrat that provide slot machines within gambling venues, they also provide free-play versions of these that are social casino games. The games look in some cases identical to the ones you’d see on the floor of a gambling venue.

Ann Arnold: Online games are a handy marketing tool for the gambling companies. And they can reach the punters of the future.

Sally Gainsbury: They’re often used as a promotional tool for companies who want to promote their gambling games, but when they are social casino games, they’re not age restricted at all. So young people can access these slot machine games as well.

Ann Arnold: The Aristocrat company refused an interview request.

Australians are especially inclined to spend money within these free games. Sally Gainsbury says they’re twice as likely to pay up as players in other countries.

Sally Gainsbury: Although in most countries around 2% of players actually pay, in Australia it’s closer to 4%.

Ann Arnold: In the Gambling Research Australia study, many social media players reported that virtual gambling was a safe alternative for them; they weren’t gambling real money. But there’s a concern that some people, especially younger people, will be misled by their success with virtual gambling.

Sally Gainsbury: The odds aren’t always the same as in gambling. Often the odds are over-inflated to make them fun, you’re more likely to win.

Ann Arnold: The study found a subset of people thought their social gaming experience would make them more likely to be successful at real-world gambling. Sally Gainsbury says social casino games are based on algorithms that give you a greater chance at winning than actual gambling does.

Sally Gainsbury: You might actually think that they’re the same as gambling and then go to gamble and then find out that you lose a lot more than what you thought.

Ann Arnold: Other kinds of electronic games which are not obviously associated with gambling were not part of the gambling research project. But they too increasingly have elements of random chance. Players can spend either virtual money or real money in the hope of a reward that they may or may not get.

Arthur: There’s this one car game, it has hero cars and you can only get them from mystery boxes. Then they’re the really crazy cars and stuff, which are amazing, but it’s not actually possible to get them.

Ann Arnold: Thirteen-year-old Arthur spent a lot of money trying to get those amazing cars from the mystery box. This was back when he was 11. He eventually wised up.

Arthur: I just figured, you know, you can’t get it. You don’t see it on YouTube, you don’t see them anywhere. It’s just you can’t get them.

Ann Arnold: You keep putting the money in, in hope?

Arthur: I stopped after a while because there was no point.

Ann Arnold: Do you know how much you would have spent?

Arthur: Hundreds I guess.

Ann Arnold: Hundreds of dollars, real dollars?

Arthur: Yeah.

Ann Arnold: How do you get the hundreds of dollars?

Arthur: I’d ask my mum or my dad to pay for it, over time though, not at once, they wouldn’t buy it like that.

Ann Arnold: This is called the freemium model, a free game with built-in but optional costs. Melbourne-based games critic Daniel Golding:

Daniel Golding: Now, this can be on a huge scale from the relatively benign where you might just pay to unlock an extra character or something like that. It ranges from that to the relatively pernicious in some ways, where you might need to essentially pay to continue playing the game, or to progress past a certain point once the game has started to get its hooks into you.

Ann Arnold: Because mobile games are often free, developers have to make money from them somehow.

Jack: Today I’m going to be trying to get characters on Crossy Road. You can see I’ve got 46 out of 53. I’ve not bought any of them. Apart from the piggy bank, which I bought yesterday.

Ann Arnold: The creators of Crossy Road have been congratulated for their approach to the freemium model. Money is made by small purchases, you can buy characters, but they’re not essential to advance in the game. The main revenue is from ads, which play before you can advance in the game. But there are no gambling or social casino ads. They pay very well, but Crossy Road‘s creators say they don’t allow them.

With in-game purchases also it was important to Matt Hall, one of the developers, to not be exploitative.

Matt Hall: With free-to-play games, there is somewhat of a…there’s starting to develop a stigma, like people are beginning to see through them a little bit and understand the tricks that they’re employing. There was quite a famous episode of South Park three months ago where they dissected the free-to-play market and exposed it for all to see.

[South Park excerpt]

Matt Hall: I think people are slowly becoming wary of that. We took a very different approach with monetisation, as in getting people to pay for things within the game. We only sell characters for somewhere between 99c or $3.99. There is no big $99 transactions in our game and people seem to really appreciate that. In that way they were happier to share Crossy Road with their friends.

Ann Arnold: Within a week of launching last November, Crossy Road had had more than 2.5 million downloads.

Matt Hall: We were trying to work out what it was and then we realised, it was Monday and all the school kids were starting to play and talk about it in the school yard, and from there it just went up and up and up.

Ann Arnold: And was that in Australia or around the world?

Matt Hall: All around the world, yep.

Ann Arnold: The characters are quirky and appealing, but most players don’t buy them. They prefer to earn or win virtual coins in the game, which they put into a ‘prize machine’ in the hope of getting a character they want.

Jack: So you know when I’ve got a new character because it says ‘new’ at the bottom. So here you can see it says ‘try again’. That’s because it’s not a new character. [Sigh] Oh, what is it with bunnies!

Ann Arnold: That’s Jack. One of the many reasons for Crossy Road‘s success is the YouTube phenomenon of ‘Let’s Play’, where game players film their own screens and narrate their moves.

Part of Crossy Road‘s appeal to adults is nostalgia. It looks like and has a similar road-crossing theme to a popular 1980s game called Frogger.

Ben Riley: I had a little bit of a play of the game myself, and it all looked pretty benign, and reminded me of my old Frogger days.

Ann Arnold: Ben Riley works at South Australia’s Statewide Gambling Therapy Service, where he’s a cognitive behavioural therapist. He’s also doing a PhD on gambling problems. At home, he monitors pretty closely what his two young daughters have access to on their screens. But he says Crossy Road caught him out.

Ben Riley: It was one Sunday evening, I was rinsing toothbrushes in the bathroom, and I heard these familiar sounds to me in their bedroom. They share a bedroom. I heard the clear sound of what sounded like a poker machine, a gaming machine. I walked in to the young one, she was six at the time, had a look on her iPad was a full-sized image of what looked like a one-armed bandit. She was pushing a button and pulling the handle, and it made all these noises that sounded just like a poker machine. She called it a prize machine, that’s what the game refers to it as. Pull the handle, and then it randomly distributes a little prize, so that’s the reward.

Jack: Try again. I’m not getting very lucky here guys. Oh, try again. Okay, I’ve spent 500 coins now. Spent 500 coins and not got anyone I need. Try again? Really?

Ann Arnold: The prize machine, has anyone suggested to you or are you conscious that it looks like and sounds like a slot machine, a poker machine?

Matt Hall: A slot machine, exactly.

Ann Arnold: Crossy Road developer Matt Hall.

Matt Hall: We made it look like a slot machine so that people knew that this part of the game, this is the grey area part of the game, yeah, but we wanted to be very upfront with it so that people knew exactly what they were seeing.

Ann Arnold: And are you comfortable with kids using a virtual slot machine?

Matt Hall: That’s an excellent question. We wanted to make sure that the prize machine doesn’t give out money. It’s just like those Gacha machines, those little toy machines where you put your coin in and a prize pops out. That’s probably a closer analogy.

Ann Arnold: You hear the tumbling coins.

Matt Hall: Yeah, but then the prize pops out of course, yeah. No, I am a parent myself, I have a six-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old. I’m very conscious of that, like I really do not like gambling. I do not gamble myself, for example. So the idea in this was not to promote gambling but to use that visual as a way of informing the player, the parent and the kid exactly what’s going on there.

Ann Arnold: A therapist who works in a gambling treatment centre in Adelaide who is also a father, he’s got two young daughters, says his girls have been totally hooked on Crossy Road and he was pretty annoyed though when he heard the sounds of a poker machine, as he thought, coming from his six-year-old daughter’s iPad.

Matt Hall: Right, yeah. I’ve had no complaints about that come through. We have a very open email line. The support system is very easy to get to. I’ve actually had no complaints from parents, believe it or not.

Jack: Right, come on chicken, come on lucky chicken. Try again. Come on. Oh my goodness, I needed him, now I get him twice? Wow. Come on chicken. Yay, someone new.

Ann Arnold: The Game Developers Association of Australia contacted Background Briefing, concerned about the way Crossy Road may be portrayed in this program. The CEO of the association, Tony Reed, said there are other games which use much more literal gambling techniques. He suggested the Crossy Road prize machine was more akin to a machine filled with toys in a shopping arcade, where you put coins in the slot and get a random selection.

I put that to gambling treatment therapist Ben Riley, in Adelaide.

Ben Riley: I would argue that that too is a form of gambling. Unlike the arcade, a parent might feed a coin in and allow their child to get a chocolate bar or a little fluffy toy or whatever it might be. That’s one dose of a random outcome or one dose of a gamble, if you like. With the Crossy Road game, there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens of doses within a pretty short period. While the child’s sitting there playing the game, they’re continually interacting with this simulated gambling-type game. The exposure to it is a lot different.

Ann Arnold: While Ben Riley sees Crossy Road as the thin edge of the wedge, other games he’s encountered have more overt gambling devices. He saw an adult client last year who was referred with an apparent addiction to the Castle Clash game. Castle Clash is a multiplayer online game.

Ben Riley: Our first response was, ‘Well, it’s not our area, we work with gambling, not gaming.’ The person said, ‘Yes,’ informed us that they’d lost some $20,000 in the previous six months.

Ann Arnold: Ben Riley says that in Castle Clash, players use the virtual currency of gems to gamble on a rolling screen similar to a poker machine. The man had spent $20,000 on gems.

Ben Riley: Those gems were used to spin the…it’s like a virtual slot machine, and the characters would all tumble around, and then you would win a certain character. This was the part of the game that this particular individual became addicted to. He was addicted to the game itself, but also the gambling element within the game. If you end up with a character that you don’t want, you don’t get the currency back, you don’t get your money back. You have to go again, just like in real-world gambling. He met criteria for both a gaming disorder, so addiction with a computer game, but also a gambling disorder.

Ann Arnold: This extraction of a vulnerable player’s money while they’re in the vortex of a game concerns Nich Richardson, the presenter of Good Game Pocket.

Nich Richardson: There’s a corruption of the games that we like. Some big franchises have started releasing games that have elements within them that you need to pay for to unlock more of, but you’ve already bought the game up front. So that’s bringing in that micro-transaction idea, about; I’ve already paid $60 for this game, why now do I need to pay another $15 to unlock more content within it?

It’s also just a really bad image. The gaming industry is constantly dealing with image from people who don’t play games and a lot of people who don’t understand them and this image of it being like gambling is not something that’s particularly helpful to gaming being accepted.

Ann Arnold: Why are the gambling elements there? Cognitive behaviour therapist Ben Riley:

Ben Riley: We know one of the most powerful forms of conditioning is what we call random reinforcement or intermittent scheduling. I guess if you build an activity within a game that is based on chance, it has that random element, it could potentially hook people in and make it difficult for them to stop playing or they’ll play it to excess.

Ann Arnold: There’s not yet conclusive evidence about the connection between problems with game playing and gambling. But Background Briefing has talked to health and youth workers who say they see obvious overlaps within a vulnerable population. Some services are either beginning to treat people for both issues, or educating young people about the risks.

Arthur: Post-apocalyptic survival game, it’s called The Fifth Day. Survive as a robot in a heap of other robots in a post-apocalyptic world. You craft weapons to defend yourself, find ammunition, and you can be detected by the enemy bots because of your radiation, and you can use solar panels as well if you don’t want to be seen.

Ann Arnold: Thirteen-year-old Arthur in Melbourne has been attending a computer group for young people organised by Headspace, the mental health service.

Arthur: I guess, yeah, it’s a bit of an addiction.

Ann Arnold: Does it stop you doing things like going to school or anything else that you should be doing?

Arthur: A bit it stopped me going to school. I was also having quite a hard time at school. But I haven’t really been taking care of myself much.

Ann Arnold: You haven’t been taking care of yourself?

Arthur: Not that well, no, not really.

Ann Arnold: What do you mean by that? What aren’t you doing?

Arthur: A lot of the time I haven’t been taking a shower or brushing my teeth and just simple things.

Ann Arnold: When he’s on social media and mobile phone games, Arthur often sees ads for gambling and virtual gambling, in games like Temple Run.

Arthur: You’ll die in the games I guess, ones like Temple Run and stuff where you have to run and if you die you can watch an ad to get a second life and do it again, just once. A lot of the time they are gambling ads in that game though. And I know they’re gambling games because it shows pictures of slots and saying you’ll win and you’ll win and you’ll win.

Ann Arnold: Arthur’s father Danny has made a point of alerting his son to gambling risks.

Danny: Ever since he was young we’ve had lots of discussions around gambling and gambling games because we had a relative who was a heavy gambler and I grew up learning about it and it was one of my hopes that he wouldn’t become a gambler.

Ann Arnold: Not all young people have had those warnings.

Danny: I just wonder about children who are out there who haven’t got parents who are telling them about this. I guess also that I didn’t realise that these gambling games were there for children and available to them, because I’m a parent who…I look at what he plays and I’m interested to see, but I don’t follow it all the time and I don’t know that these things are there.

Ann Arnold: The new Gambling Research Australia study found young people were particularly susceptible to gambling promotions. Overall, one in ten people said they gambled more as a result of seeing social media promotions.

The researchers analysed the Facebook page of a 35-year-old male. Lead researcher Sally Gainsbury:

Sally Gainsbury: We did a case study where we had a 35-year-old male look at his Facebook profile and capture the different types of ads he saw. He found a number of ads for gambling themed games, as well as illegal gambling sites and legal gambling sites. The illegal sites often had Australian cash in them. They were targeting Australian users. They had these fake users saying, ‘I’ve won $10,000. It’s so easy. You should join up. Click here to get straight to the site.’ They were very appealing and really looked at the winnings you could have and really pressured people into joining these sites.

Ann Arnold: Sally Gainsbury says Australian law-enforcement agencies seem unable to stop the ads. That’s down to Facebook to control the advertising of what are, in Australia, illegal online casinos.

Sally Gainsbury: Essentially they’re provided through Facebook, which is a global company. They have an Australian office, but how to get Facebook to stop displaying these ads? It’s difficult and very little action appears to be taken, which means that Australians are being exposed to these ads. They can click through and start gambling on them. This includes young people as well.

Ann Arnold: A Facebook spokeswoman said Facebook prohibits gambling ads where it’s illegal. In a written statement she said: ‘We require all gambling companies who intend to advertise with us to go through a vetting process where we review their gambling licence and compliance with local laws.’

In Australia there are restrictions for gambling advertising on billboards or television, but on social media the rules are often not applied.

Sally Gainsbury: We did an audit of social media sites used by Australian gambling operators and we found that the vast majority of posts did not have any responsible gambling warning, and many of the Facebook profiles didn’t actually mention responsible gambling or this was hidden away under some sort of drill-down menu.

Ann Arnold: When it comes to virtual gambling, one new game app ups the ante, according to Senator Nick Xenophon.

Nick Xenophon: When I was told about GiiUp, I couldn’t believe that it had been allowed on the marketplace. It’s a free app. When I opened it up, you can make a simulated bet on any horse, harness or greyhound race in the country in real time.

Ann Arnold: GiiUp is an Australian product. Senator Xenophon was alerted to GiiUp earlier this year. He believed the ease of use and the graphics (some of which have since been changed) made it accessible and available to children.

Nick Xenophon: I think that this is an insidious app. It actually pushes gambling onto kids, because there doesn’t appear to be any age limit for this app because under our current bookmaking and gambling laws, because real money isn’t actually involved, it doesn’t appear to be illegal.

Apps like GiiUp can condition kids, habituate them to take up gambling. It normalises gambling behaviour. The fact that these sorts of apps make it appear very easy for kids to think that gambling is a harmless pursuit, and as soon as they turn 18 they can open up an account with a betting agency and start using real money automatically without any barriers.

Ann Arnold: Nick Xenophon wants the Interactive Gambling Act amended to close what he sees as a loophole which allowing games that use virtual currency to be not classified as gambling.

GiiUp goes beyond the virtual. It has a link to Classic Bet, which is a betting company. In the app you can click on either ‘coin bet’ for virtual gambling, or, right next to it, ‘cash bet’ to go through to real betting.

GiiUp‘s Michael Castleman told Background Briefing that children’s access to his app is a shared responsibility between parents and his company, but he didn’t elaborate. The race betting app’s blurb is ‘learn a skill for life’.

Senator Nick Xenophon is not impressed.

Nick Xenophon: It’s in the interest of betting agencies to hook up with these seemingly harmless kids’ games, these virtual gambling apps, because there’s a clear symbiotic relation between the two.

Ann Arnold: The monitoring and regulation of game and app content falls between cracks in the regulatory system, which at this stage is lagging behind creative and technological developments. The chief responsibility for electronic media content sits with ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which, as Sally Gainsbury said earlier, has never prosecuted illegal offshore gambling sites. Background Briefing requested an interview with ACMA, which was declined.

So who’s watching the apps? Nick Xenophon says that with such a regulatory vacuum, it’s the electronic stores that sell apps that need to show corporate responsibility.

Nick Xenophon: Apple iTunes and Google Play can’t ignore the fact that many of their customers are being hurt by these apps, either directly or indirectly: directly through spending up big on virtual credits, and indirectly by being conditioned and introduced to real forms of gambling, betting agencies where people can lose their pay packets, lose an enormous amount of money very quickly. So I think that Google Play and Apple iTunes simply saying ‘we comply with current laws’, really doesn’t sit well with their corporate ethos of being socially responsible. Maybe they need to be encouraged with some legislative change to make this happen.

Ann Arnold: Background Briefing sought comment from both Google and Apple. There was no response from Apple. A Google spokesman cited policy that said ‘we don’t allow content that facilitates online gambling’. That included sports betting. GiiUp is not available in the Google Play store.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance with a gambling problem, you can get 24-hour help from the National Gambling Helpline, phone 1800 858 858.

Background Briefing‘s co-ordinating producer is Linda McGinness, research by Lawrence Bull, technical production by Martin Peralta, the executive producer is Chris Bullock, and I’m Ann Arnold.