Sports gambling ‘out-of-control’: Clubs unite to reduce impact on young men

Sports betting has become normal among young men. Picture by Zoe Malliaris.
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The gambling industry bombards young men with advertising, especially through sports betting. Zoe Malliaris reports on the efforts to combat the damage.

The “out-of-control” normalisation of sports betting, particularly in young men aged 18-24 years, has prompted major sports across Australia to join forces to limit its impact. 

St Bernards Football Club player Sam Singarella, 18, said sports betting happens more than people might think within the age group. 

“It’s out of control. It’s actually crazy how normalised sports betting is within young men,” he said. 

Young men are now the largest group of sport betters in Victoria, at almost a third in 2022. Nielsen research showed the gambling industry spent $287.2 million on ads in Australia in 2021, a substantial increase on previous years.

A 2018 study commissioned by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Authority showed that half of the participants (young men aged 18-24) bet at least weekly on sports.

Sports gambling 'out-of-control': Clubs unite to reduce impact on young men
Sam Singarella says gambling is common among young men at sports clubs. Picture by Zoe Malliaris

The foundation’s Love the Game program, established in 2014, aims to combat the normalisation of gambling in sport. It now has 650+ partners whose aim is to encourage players to “love the game, not the odds”. 

Foundation spokesperson Patrick Gallus said that people born in this millennium had never known a time when betting wasn’t part of sport.

Young men think betting on sport is normal, and when something seems normal, people think it is without risk.

Gambling advertising has become incredibly persuasive. “Ads create and reinforce this notion without addressing the negatives,” he said. 

Gallus said that the Love the Game foundation had an important role in reducing young people’s exposure to sports betting. 

Sam Singarella talks about the impact of gambling in his sports club.

“Clubs that join the program agree not to accept sponsorship from sports betting companies and to encourage young people to love the game, not the odds,” he said. 

Coburg Lions Football Club CEO Sebastian Spagnuolo said that the club is proud to be a part of the program. 

“We have education sessions throughout the year about the pitfalls of gambling and sports, we don’t have any partnerships with sports betting organisations or hotels that promote gambling,” he said. 

Spagnuolo said he believes sports betting is not a “form of socialising”, although it is made out to be. 

As of 2022, 30 professional clubs and peak bodies partner with the Love the Game program, including all Victorian AFL clubs, as well as hundreds of local sporting clubs. 

Singarella said he finds it “worrying” that sports betting is “celebrated” among young men. 

“When I am at my football club, young men are always talking about what games they’ve bet on and celebrating their winnings together,” he said. 

He said that what sports clubs are doing currently to condemn sports betting is “amazing”, however he wished “it happened sooner”, as he feels it is too late for the young men today to “get out of their ways”.