Retired premiership player Allen Christensen has urged government action on tackling sports betting with AFL fans growing tired of rampant gambling advertising in prime-time.
Results from an AFL Fans Association poll revealed 37 per cent of supporters are worried about the saturation of gambling advertising linked to the code.
It was the second biggest issue of concern to fans, only behind umpiring and rule changes.
Christensen retired from the AFL in 2020 after 133 games for Geelong and the Brisbane Lions, including playing in the Cats’ 2011 premiership.
He struggled with a crippling gambling addiction during his time at Geelong, leading him to request a trade to the Lions at the end of the 2014 season.
Now living in Tasmania, the 30-year-old is a passionate advocate of raising awareness for gambling help and previously hosted a podcast, Addicted to the Game, with his brothers and a close friend.
“I’m not in any way anti-gambling at all, but the advertisements are something that can be a lot better, and should be more scrutinised,” Christensen told AAP.
“While the current rules are in place, they’re (betting companies) going to keep exploiting that.
“It’s got to come from a higher place and it’s got to be the government that puts things in place that doesn’t allow these harmful products to be advertised in such a fun, attractive way in prime-time.
“They did it with smoking around their advertising so there’s no reason why they can’t do it with gambling.
“When you get pumped full of ideas that gambling is only positive; they make it look like gambling is this jovial, fun thing where you’re never going to lose, when that’s not the actual product – the majority of people don’t win.
“You’ve got to make sure the ads that are being shown are actually gambling ads and show the real effects of what actually happens sometimes.
“These big TV shows like Survivor, SAS and Married at First Sight, (betting companies) know millions of people are watching these shows – because sport’s not on, doesn’t mean they should be allowed to get away with advertising to families in prime-time.”
Christensen admits he finds it difficult watching sport now when gambling advertising has become such a big part of the culture but has developed his own coping mechanisms.
Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood had voiced similar views around government legislation, most recently when he retired last October.
Previously smaller companies have invaded the crowded sports betting market in recent years as technology has made it even easier to gamble online.
AFL Fans Association president Cheryl Critchley said the survey results over the concern of betting advertising were much higher than expected.
“Many have told us that they don’t like them and are concerned that they are normalising gambling for children,” she said.
“Researchers are demonstrating this and the AFLFA supports the work of various state government initiatives and campaigns focused on countering the normalisation of gambling and sport.”
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the league had “made steps” to tackle sports betting advertising, like cutting out live odds at games.
The AFL in 2020 signed a five-year deal with BetEasy, before it merged with SportsBet, reportedly worth about $10 million.
“We know it’s an issue for some people, and we think it’s about balance,” McLachlan told 3AW on Monday.
“We try and listen. There are always issues and we look at those things and try and get the right balance.”