AFL criticised for promoting series of bets that have 85% loss rate for gamblers

This story by Henry Belot first appeared in The Guardian on 21st September 2023.

AFL criticised for promoting series of bets that have 85% loss rate for gamblers
Analysis of 90 advertised same-game multis from Sportsbet shows only 15% would result in a win

The AFL has been promoting bets that have an 85% fail rate while taking a cut of the losses, drawing criticism from politicians and harm reduction advocates who want such ads banned.

Sportsbet suggests same-game multis during televised coverage, in segments hosted by the former AFL star Nathan Brown. These bets allow gambling on a combination of outcomes such as possessions and goal scorers, and all must succeed before money is paid out.

The suggested same-game multis also feature in videos produced by Sportsbet, which are shared on the AFL’s main social media accounts as part of its wagering partnership. On Twitter, or X, the AFL has 836,000 followers.

AFL Game

Analysis of the offers promoted by Sportsbet over 90 matches since 23 June reveals punters would have won on 17 occasions, but the betting agency would have profited on 73 games.

The win-loss ratio was first reported by an anonymous social media account called TrackMyBrown on Twitter, which has been monitoring results since round 15. The ratio has been independently verified by Guardian Australia.

According to the TrackMyBrown account, even with wins being achievable on 17 bets, the gains would not be enough to offset the losses. Guardian Australia was unable to verify the total value of those losses.

Sportsbet was contacted for comment.

The promotions have been criticised as one example of a bombardment of gambling advertisements now associated with the sport. The federal government is considering a parliamentary inquiry’s recommendation to ban these types of ads.

Earlier this year, the AFL confirmed it received a cut of gambling turnover on matches beyond official sponsorship deals with wagering companies.

“We have product fee arrangements with all the wagering operators where we get a percentage of their operations on the AFL,” the outgoing chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, told a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm.

Independent MP Kate Chaney, who was a member of the parliamentary inquiry, said: “The cosy relationship between elite football competitions and betting companies is a major barrier to gambling reform.

“Most people would be horrified to find out that the AFL receives three separate revenue streams from gambling companies – direct sponsorship, a value increase in broadcast rights and a direct cut of all gambling losses,” Chaney said.

The independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a long-term critic of the AFL’s reliance on gambling for revenue, said the advertisements should be banned immediately.

“Sportsbet encouraging gamblers to pay for same-game multi bets that are very likely to be unsuccessful is appalling corporate behaviour and should be outlawed immediately,” Wilkie said.

“Equally outrageous is that the AFL promotes and profits from such terrible behaviour, providing further proof that it’s just another big business more interested in money that the public interest.”

The independent MP Zoe Daniel said the analysis showed “the alarming extent to while the AFL has been captured by gambling companies”.

“It is utterly unconscionable that the AFL is making money out of the losses suffered by fans of the game while at the same time actively encouraging them to get hooked,” Daniel said.

“I cannot imagine a clearer breach of the social contract between fans and those who run the sport they love. The AFL should end its addiction to gambling revenue and especially the money it makes from the losses suffered by the very fans on whom support for game depends.”

The chief executive of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Carol Bennett, said the AFL’s position on gambling was “deplorable”.

“The AFL partnership with gambling providers is changing the experience of sport, and not for the better.”

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