The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has taken regulatory action against two media outlets for broadcasting betting commercials during sporting events.

Seven Network and Nine Network were found to have breached gambling advertising regulations, which prevent the broadcasting of betting promotions during live sports coverage. 

An investigation revealed that Seven aired 49 betting promotions during regional broadcasts of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during July and August 2021, viewed by audiences in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, as well as across its live stream.

Meanwhile, Nines showcased a gambling advert during a halftime break of the National Rugby League (NRL) grand final on the evening of 3 October 2021.

“Many families enjoy watching sport as a shared activity and parents worry that children exposed to these ads may normalise betting as a part of sport,” read a statement from Nerida O’Loghlin, ACMA Chair.

“It is disappointing that both networks have failed to meet their responsibilities on such high-profile sporting events.”

Under Australian gambling advertising law, broadcasters can’t show betting marketing during live sports events between 5am and 8.30pm after which time the ads must be limited to ‘defined breaks’.

A separate set of rules exists for ‘long-form events’ such as the Olympics, where betting ads cannot be shown on television or streaming services from five minutes before the start of the first event of the day until 8.30pm, and not more than once every two hours after that time.

Both broadcasters have subsequently entered into ‘court-enforceable undertakings’ with the ACMA, and will be queried to implement systems and refresh training for scheduling and broadcast staff. 

The end goal of these measures is to ensure the breaches do not occur again, and the outlets will also be required to track the complaints and responses around gambling advertising.

Both must report back to the ACMA on the progress of the training and ‘effectiveness of their new systems and practices’, providing details on how issues have been resolved – additionally, Seven has been handed an official warning for live stream breaches. 

“These rules exist to address community concerns about excessive exposure to betting promotions. Both Seven and Nine are well aware that they have to keep these ads to certain times,” O’Loughlin remarked.

The ACMA’s reprimand of the two media firms comes as Australia’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs initiates a parliamentary inquiry into the scope and reach of online gambling. 

This will include an assessment of the effectiveness of current gambling advertising regulations, with a focus on limiting children’s exposure to betting products and marketing. 

The ACMA states that it will make a submission to the inquiry based on its regulatory experience of handling betting advertising issues, as well as its clampdown on illegal offshore sites targeting Australian consumers.

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