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Fighting against all odds

by Harry Taylor

It shocked me to learn through recent media reports that an average of 948 gambling ads are shown every single day on free-to-air TV in Victoria. Worse, a large number are played during prime-time family viewing, when kids are watching. That we accept this as being okay is disheartening.

During my AFL career, I was proud to play for the Geelong Cats for lots of reasons. I was fortunate to play in a great team on and off the field, where people really valued each other. The Geelong Football Club has a significant impact on people in our community and I was very pleased that our club not only says no to sports betting sponsorship, it will also not display gambling ads at GHMBA stadium during home games.

As a player, I was more than aware of the infiltration of sports by betting operators, the too-good-to-be-true inducements tempting young people – blokes especially - to have a punt, and frequent references to ‘the odds’ in conversations about footy.

But it wasn’t until I retired and started watching more matches on TV that it really hit home. From the LED signage to the in-program content and the ad break after each goal, it’s impossible to escape the ads. No wonder young people are growing up to think it’s normal to bet on our game.

At ages 7, 9 and 11, my kids could easily name several betting companies without hesitation – the ads are shown during their favourite TV shows before bed. That’s not right.

It’s not right that the hard work of elite players who invest so much time in their training, is being reduced to the odds bookies place on the first player to kick a goal, the first team to score, and a range of so-called exotic bets.

And it’s not right that players are trolled and threatened on social media by bettors who wrongly hold them responsible for losses.

As a former player, as a dad, and in my current role in Geelong FC’s footy department, I continue to support the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s Love the Game program.

May is Love the Game month and this year coaches at every level of the game across the state are being encouraged to talk to young players and fans about the risks of gambling. The game plan is to plant a seed that will help kids make better informed decisions later on in life.

If you’re like me and many others in our community who are worried that sport and gambling have become so closely linked, you can join the fight. Start talking to the kids in your life about why you love the game, not the odds.

This opinion editorial was originally published in The Herald Sun on 26 May 2022. Reproduced with permission.

Harry Taylor

Harry Taylor is a supporter of the Love the Game program.

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