There is a view that if a product is legal to sell it ought to be legal to advertise it. Yet we have banned tobacco advertising and, other than the tobacco industry, nobody seems to mind too much. In that case we have taken the view that if a product is a scourge that greatly harms society it ought to be discouraged. However banning the product itself may not be the best way to reduce harm. So in the case of tobacco it remains legal to sell but not to advertise.
The question becomes, is gambling such a problem that it warrants the same treatment? There are many products that may cause harm if misused or over used. We could end up banning advertising for alcohol, fatty food and fast cars. So how do you decide how far to go?
As I understand it the deciding factors for tobacco were; it has no safe level of use, it is addictive and it has a serious risk of morbidity and death. Gambling is addictive to some but others can have a flutter now and then and can otherwise leave it alone. It does have a safe level of use for most people. It doesn’t generally cause morbidity or death. However gambling can have very bad consequences for those who are susceptible to it just like alcohol.
The degree to which people gamble depends on many factors. The nature of the individual and society both matter. The greater the access to gambling and the more it is accepted as normal (even desirable) behaviour the more people will gamble. So restricting availability (fewer pokies) and banning advertising make sense.
My personal view is that anyone who gambles using any of the approved vehicles such as poker machines, horses, dogs, sports etc is a fool. I just don’t do it because in the long run you will almost certainly lose because the odds are always stacked against you. It is worth noting that in some circumstances if the individual tries to inject a level of skill into the process they will be banned as this may reduce the house edge and hence profits. Organised gambling is a stupidity tax.
If it left to me I would have no problem banning gambling advertising. But I don’t enjoy it at all. I have been known to play cards for rather high stakes but that isn’t the same sort of gambling as the odds are even and it is up to your skill.
I think it is a close call but on balance I think such a ban is going too far. You cannot save people from every weakness and the consequences are not as dire overall as tobacco. As an alternative I suggest that the advertisements must include information about the odds against the punter and the warning should be expressed in simple terms that make it clear how little chance there is, over time, of making a small profit much less a big win.