Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has criticised the AFL over its attitude to gambling.
- A gambling researcher says the AFL has helped normalise gambling through its deals with bookmakers
- AFL’s chief executive Gillon McLachlan has denied the league has a conflict of interest
- Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says players need to be protected from themselves as they have too much money and free time
Buckley is the coach of Jaidyn Stephenson, who has been suspended for 10 matches for gambling on three AFL games, including placing bets on himself to kick goals and for his team to win.
“There is a bit of an irony in penalising someone for gambling but then receiving money for it,” Buckley told Melbourne radio station SEN.
The AFL has a commercial agreement with the bookmaker, Bet Easy. The AFL’s website features ads for gambling odds and contains a weekly video segment discussing odds on games.
“The irony is being critical of the actions but then having it splashed everywhere,” Buckley said.
“I was watching [Fox Footy’s] AFL 360 last night and I think I had to sit [through] three or four different gambling ads.
“It lines a lot of pockets so it’s a vexed issue. It’s one that our leaders need to decide on.”
Gambling researcher and Monash University Associate Professor Charles Livingstone said the AFL had helped to normalise gambling through its corporate partnerships with bookmakers, reportedly worth $10 million.
“My personal view would be that the AFL should walk away from its engagement with gambling companies and start to change the culture in which gambling has become embedded in the game,” Mr Livingstone said.
“Ten million bucks is a lot of money of course, but when you look at the overall range of the AFL’s revenue it’s a bit of a drop in the ocean.”
Buckley wants the leaders of AFL to look at the league’s close association with bookmakers. (AAP: David Crosling)
‘It is a legal thing that is happening all around us’
The AFL’s chief executive Gillon McLachlan has denied the league has a conflict of interest.
“There are some people who have issues with us being involved in wagering; the answer to that is clear it is a legal thing that is happening all around us,” he told Triple M on Thursday.
“It would be happening without the AFL having betting relationships or not, therefore we have them because you wouldn’t notice any difference if we did or we didn’t.”
Gillon McLachlan said betting on sports was legal, and he denied the AFL had a conflict of interest. (AAP: Joe Castro)
Buckley said that position might be too pragmatic.
“I can understand the realities of commercialism and needing that support, but sometimes what’s actually good for you short-term is not the right moral decision,” he said.
The issue of gambling in the AFL among players is in the spotlight after Stephenson’s suspension.
Former high-profile players such as David Schwarz and Simon Goodwin have admitted to having crippling gambling addictions.
Recently, the former Essendon full forward Matthew Lloyd said the problem was only worsening.
“I noticed as I was retiring the number of players who were becoming addicted to gambling and their lives were being destroyed by gambling,” Lloyd said.
Players need protection from themselves, expert says
Associate Professor Livingstone said AFL players “tick all the boxes for someone who’s at risk of gambling”.
“They’re all performance nuts, so they all want to think they can pick the form of anything and anybody,” he said.
“And they’re action-oriented people. They want stuff to be happening around them.”
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said more needed to be done to protect players from themselves.
“Too much time on their hands and too much disposable income: they’re the two dynamics that collide and create a real issue,” Beveridge said.
“It’s important for players to have another vocational focus, whether that’s in academia or whether they’ve got a job placement, but they need to fill in their days.
“The priority is that they become consistent and prolific AFL footballers, and that hopefully sets them up for life, but it won’t if they don’t have things to fill in their gaps, because they’ll dispose of that money too easily.”
The latest figures on gambling in Australia from 2016/17 shows Australians are betting about $10 billion on sports and losing about $1 billion a year.
The total losses each year from all gambling is almost $24 million. The bulk of betting in Australia is still on poker machines and casinos.
But sport betting is on the rise, growing by 15 per cent last year, making it the fastest growing segment of the Australian gambling market.
“We should be concerned about it because although it’s a relatively small percentage of the market at this stage, all the technological developments that we’ve seen are likely to encourage its rapid growth,” Associate Professor Livingstone said.
“This segment of the gambling market has the potential to take off and I expect it will continue to grow quite rapidly.”