William Hill among those advertising gambling services for the first time at prestigious tennis tournament
This year's Australian Open tennis championship will for the first time feature electronic advertising boards paid for by gambling companies that include William Hill when the action starts Monday.
The boards will be used in the three main arenas at Melbourne Park, named after Rod Laver, Margaret Court and the Hisense company and will present advertising during breaks in play, along with sponsor messages.
Anti-online gambling figures have come out against what they perceive to be more saturation advertising for gambling, and are particularly concerned that the adverts will encourage in-play betting – already a controversial topic in Australia.
Richard Heaselgrave, director of Tennis Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald that gambling was a legal recreational pastime in Australia and that up until around 2005 there was an onsite wagering presence.
He pointed out that William Hill in particular "…has a strong track record working with global sporting bodies and a significant aspect of this partnership is our capacity to work side-by-side to uphold the integrity framework of the sport."
However, Samantha Thomas, an associate professor at Deakin University, warned that gambling adverts associated with sport normalises the concept of gambling among children and teenagers, who could be influenced by such publicity.
"It would be incredibly naive to think children would not be influenced by it," Dr Thomas said.
Approached for comment by the newspaper, well-known anti-gambling activist and Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said:.
"No-one wants wall to wall tennis coverage that's littered with ads from the gambling pushers. Tennis has already had bet fixing scandals. Surely this is an invitation for more corruption of the sport?"
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