A/Prof Samantha Thomas with Mike Daube, Melissa Stoneham and PhD students Hannah Pitt and Amy Bestman
On the 9th of June, PHAIWA was pleased to host a presentation from A/Professer Samantha Thomas, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong, and Distinguished Professorial Fellow at the University of Tuebingen. Attended by various government and non-government representatives, Samantha presented on the Normalisation of Sports Based Gambling in Australia. Samantha’s work is based on understanding the impact of gambling industry tactics on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. She has been a longtime advocate for independent research into gambling harm, and is particularly interested in promoting gambling within sport and the impact on children and young adults.
Samantha positioned gambling as one of the ‘Big Four’ unhealthy commodities in sport, alongside tobacco, junk food and alcohol. With Australians being the biggest gamblers in the world, and the wide reaching consequences that harmful gambling can have on the wider community, Samantha discussed the way sports betting has evolved over the past few years, highlighting the various ways which industry promotes gambling activities through sport. Industry encompasses gambling providers, broadcasters, sporting codes and clubs, with often unclear relationships. Gambling activities are promoted through various marketing strategies throughout Australia, including online wagering, pokies at sports clubs which directly raise club revenue, advertising at games, through online broadcasts, and via sports club sponsorship.
Samantha discussed the process by which gambling has been ‘normalised’ in sport in Australia, with online wagering providing an easily accessible avenue for gambling, and promoting fans to be part of the sporting ‘experience’. These tactics are slowly leading to social and cultural acceptance of sports betting, through methods such as peer based advertising, linking ‘skill’ with successful wagering, and saturating environments. Of concern, these strategies heavily influence children’s perceptions of normality of gambling products in sport, with further research currently being undertaken in this area. Public health research and advocacy remains a powerful, and urgently needed, tool to reduce community harm from gambling.
PHAIWA will soon be releasing a position paper on gambling and public health advocacy strategies.