AFL chief Gillon McLachlan admits there are too many gambling ads and hints at tougher restrictions

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AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has admitted too many gambling ads are being linked to the sport, warning that restrictions are tightening as the federal government considers a broader crackdown.

McLachlan’s comments follow criticism from politicians, researchers, healthcare professionals, gamblers, gambling addicts and fans who now overwhelmingly support a ban on sports betting advertising on TV and radio to reduce the harm to the community.

“I think it’s probably too much, yeah,” McLachlan told Melbourne radio station 3AW. “I don’t have a problem that other people have with betting, I just think the volume is too high. it’s in your face

Related: AFL sticks to gambling promotions despite more than 75% of fans supporting bans

“We have a number of restrictions that are currently under review. They’ll probably be wound more tightly, but we don’t believe in a ban because it’s only driven underground or at sea, and that has its own problems.”

The comments contradict what the top body of the major sports codes, including the AFL, said in a parliamentary inquiry into the harm of online gambling. The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports argued that current regulations are sufficient and further restrictions would reduce investment at grassroots level.

McLachlan, who will soon step down from his role as chief executive, did not repeat that claim and confirmed he would appear next month before the parliamentary inquiry, which is used to inform federal government actions.

“I think by and large there’s a hell of a lot of advertising out there for betting and possibly too much,” McLachlan said. “But we don’t believe in bans, so it’s a matter of finding the right balance.

“We should constantly review our presence and how we interact with different brands and bets is no different.”

The number of complaints about gambling advertising has nearly doubled in the past financial year, prompting Australia’s media regulator to warn that current restrictions are not meeting community expectations.

Australia’s Communications and Media Authority said advertising restrictions were working as intended for broadcast media, but children were increasingly watching sport on streaming services that weren’t subject to the same regulations.

Earlier this week, Guardian Australia reported the AFL Fans Association’s poll of 3,000 people found that 76% of fans would support a ban on gambling advertising on television and radio. A further 79% supported a ban on advertising in stadiums.

“Fans are most concerned that the bombardment of gambling ads for their children who watch football will educate them as future players and normalize gambling,” the report reads.

An AFL spokesman said the league has already taken some action to reduce gambling advertising in stadiums.

“The AFL has strict restrictions on the times that gambling advertising is allowed and has reduced the amount of betting marks and signage on premises,” the spokesman said.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a longtime critic of the AFL’s links to gambling, urged the league to make changes.

“The AFL is completely out of sync and it’s no longer time for them to either get on board or get out of the way,” Wilkie said earlier this week.

“Change is coming. Public opinion and concern is so strong that sooner or later a government will be forced to act. The community is fed up.”


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