NRL’s Rabbitohs and Bulldogs maintain betting separation
Credit: max blain, Shutterstock

Australian professional rugby league continues to keep its distance from the sports betting sector, as two of New South Wales’ (NSW) biggest clubs announce an extension of a partnership with Reclaim the Game.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs of the National Rugby League (NRL) confirmed a three-year renewal of the pre-existing partnership with Reclaim the Game, an initiative of the NSW government.

A core principle of the campaign is a commitment by the two NRL clubs to not display betting ads during home games. Instead, the clubs will promote the Reclaim the Game campaign through communication channels and educate players, staff and fans around gambling risks.

South Sydney Rabbitohs CEO, Blake Solly, remarked: “We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Reclaim the Game. Their commitment to being part of a positive social movement aligns with the values of our club, and we are excited to continue working together to challenge the notion that gambling is a normal part of sport.”

The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs first signed up to the Reclaim the Game initiative back in 2022, at a time when public and political pressure was beginning to mount on the visibility of betting and gaming in Australian sports.

Concerns have been raised about the societal implications of betting, particularly regarding problem gambling and gambling-related harm. The connection between sports betting and the sports sector, particularly through marketing, has come under particular scrutiny.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs CEO, Aaron Warburton, said: “In 2022 we joined forces with Reclaim the Game to say no to sports betting advertising. It was a first of its kind partnership for our club and one we are extremely proud of, challenging the notion that betting is a normal part of the game.

“Rugby League is one of the most entertaining sporting experiences on offer and we firmly believe that our members and fans should be able to watch and enjoy this great game without constant advertising from sports betting companies. 

“The contests, rivalries, skills and personalities within our game are what make it so attractive to millions of viewers and we couldn’t put it better than to say, don’t let a bet take you away from the game.”

The continuing of this separation of betting and sports in Australia comes against a backdrop of regulatory change in the country. Both the federal government of Anthony Albanese and state governments, in particular Victoria and NSW, have been targeting regulatory reform of betting.

NSW Director of the Office of Responsible Gambling, Alison Parkinson, said: “NRL games draw huge crowds and receive extensive media coverage. The NRL is highly intertwined with betting advertising and sponsorships, increasing the risk of gambling harm among fans.

“The Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have been pioneers against the saturation of betting ads in the NRL, helping to make their game days a family-friendly experience. Family traditions often shape support for a club, and attitudes towards gambling can also be passed down through generations. 

“We are pleased to see the Rabbitohs’ and the Bulldogs’ commitment to addressing this issue, highlighting the potential harms that gambling can cause individuals, families and society.”

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