A COMPLAINT against Australia’s biggest gambling company has been upheld by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) after viewers complained it glorified symptoms of problem gambling.
The Tabcorp TV placement depicts a man recounting to his wife about his camping trip. The advertisement shows the man and his friends continuously gambling throughout the trip, while seemingly neglecting the other activities around them.
Using a flashback story-telling method, the men are shown prioritising gambling on their phones and watching horse racing above fundamental tasks such as cooking.
The advertisement then ends as the man claims he “loved” the weekend away.
The watchdog received multiple complaints about the advertisement, which was criticised for its depiction of gambling while on a holiday.
One complaint stated that the advertisement glorified dishonesty at home.
“The ad implied that it would be “fun” and “sociable” to lie to your partner about gambling addiction. It glamorises gambling as a kind of pleasure that one could indulge in over a weekend, but come home unsuspected,” read another complaint.
Another who sent their concerns to the ASB went as far as to suggest that what was on display portrayed a “serious gambling addiction”.
“If someone had just such a need to get online for a whole weekend (as is implied by the ad), and then conceal that from their partner (as is implied by the ad), they would be suffering a serious gambling addiction.”
The area of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics in question with this ad is the Wagering Code, which dictates that advertisers “must not portray, condone or encourage excessive participation in wagering activities”.
Tabcorp believes the advertisement does not contravene the code, stating that the advertisement was “not a depiction of a problem gambler concealing his gambling from his family”.
Tabcorp also directly addressed the deception aspect of the complaints, stating that there is “no suggestion” that his claim that he “loved it” in relation to the trip was disguising anything from his partner.
The Advertising Standards Board ultimately agreed that Tabcorp did not depict the man lying about his activities on the trip, but ruled the advertisement still infringed on the Code of Ethics.
The majority of the board deemed that the “overall suggestion” of the ad was “wagering takes priority in all aspects of the men’s weekend”.
“The board considered that the depiction is not strongly condoning or encouraging excessive participation, but that it is portraying excessive participation in wagering activities,”
Tabcorp ad ‘fundamentally wrong’
The Advertisement Standards Board may have taken action against the television placement for its depiction of gambling, but, advertising and media expert and lecturer at Melbourne University, Lauren Rosewarne, believes the board missed the true sinister aspect of gambling ads in Australia.
Rosewarne believes all advertising of gambling in this country “works to glorify [gambling]”, given it is framed in the same light as other leisure activities.
“It would be delusional to think that gambling companies aren’t trying to depict gambling as mainstream, like going to the cinema,” Rosewarne said.
The lecture believes that glorifying addiction is a “different beast”, and whilst on the surface it depicts an innocent weekend away, Rosewarne warns the advertisement displays something much more insidious.
“We have no evidence of abuse, but what we have evidence of is how technology, notably online gambling, has changed the “boys weekend” into something less social and more adolescent,”
“Arguably that in itself might work as a cautionary tale.”
Tabcorp has requested an independent review of the case, continuing to claim the television placement does not breach the Wagering Code.
Rosewarne believes the opposition is a “symbolic gesture” from a company who does not understand the damage their advertisements have the potential to do.
“By not fighting this decision they’re accepting there’s something fundamentally wrong with how they advertise. They have to be seen as doing the right thing,” she says.
“They need to present themselves as though they genuinely believe that they do their part in preventing problem gambling, and that this ad is such an example.”