xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: You can bet on it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

You can bet on it.

On Foxtel TV they are running a commercial where a man tells a fellow worker that he is looking forward to spending the weekend watching the ads on TV. Of course we all know this fellow is an idiot and very quickly a voiceover assures viewers that we are not an ad watching nation, we are “A Sports Loving Nation”. Foxtel then tells us with vivid colours, loud music and flashing lights that it provides the greatest television sports coverage on earth. It goes on to boast that it brings viewers the AFL football each week without any commercials whatsoever during each quarter of the nine AFL matches it shows each weekend.

“Foxtel, commercial free from siren to siren” it proudly proclaims while no doubt thousands of viewers around the nation give three hearty cheers to commercial free Foxtel. Not me. I don’t think Foxtel is a sports loving TV provider. I think it is a sport betting provider. Between those commercial free quarters and at various times of the night and day, Foxtel lets us know that we could make a fortune out of betting on football, or cricket, horseracing, or just about anything at all.

Not only can you bet on who is going to win, you can bet on how much they will win by, who will kick the first goal, who have the most possessions, who will kick the most goals, who will be leading at half time, who will give the most tackles, who will drink the most water and who will spit into the wind the most. OK. I made those last two up, but do not be surprised if it actually comes to pass.

The ads do not only confine themselves to how you can make money by winning a bet. No! They tell you that you can make money even when your team loses or even if your horse runs last. The man on the TV screams at you that even if your team loses but was in front at any of the quarter time breaks  then you get your money back. Well up to fifty dollars of it back.

Same with the horses. If you place a five leg bet and one leg loses you get your money back. Up to fifty dollars. I must point out that five leg betting does not require you to back five legged horses. It just means that you bet on one horse and then put your winnings on the second horse and so and so on up to horse number five. It all seems so simple and sooo generous of the betting company that is eager to take your hard earned cash, credit card or direct debit.

How can you possibly lose? Well, quite easily actually. That is why after the frantic three minute spiel enticing you to bet big and to bet often, a sign flashes on the screen saying “Bet responsibly”. At first I thought this was an inducement to put my hard earned dosh on a horse named Responsibly running in the fifth at Belmont. But no. This sign is telling the people who bet not to bet more than they can afford to lose.Sadly, we know that a lot of people not only bet more than they can afford to lose, they borrow or steal even more money to feed their need to bet.

The Bet responsibly screen image is displayed for about five seconds. It is a requirement of the government which obviously has guilt feelings about making money off bookies who are causing many compulsive gamblers to wreck their lives, their families and their marriages in the quest for easy riches.

TV betting is getting bigger and bigger. During the Australian Tennis Open in January this year, many viewers were driven to distraction by the repetitious sports betting ads of William Hill Bookmakers urging people to bet on the tennis or the golf or anything that else that involves two or more people or animals in a contest.  Believe me, Distraction is not an attractive destination to be driven to. 

Then, at the end of the tournament, all was revealed. The players and the main organisers thanked all the sponsors for making the event possible. One of the organisations that they thanked was William HillBbookmakers. There it was in high density red, blue and green, William Hill Bookmakers was an official sponsor of the Australian Tennis Open Tournament. Well, I never.

Well, actually I have, because each weekend I watch the umpires running around officiating at AFL footy matches. On their backs they all have an advertising message in big, bold letters saying OPSM. Ironically OPSM is the well-known trade name of a company providing optical treatment and spectacles for people with impaired vision. So, you see, it is true what the thousands of enraged fans scream at the umpires during each game. Generally, these often ribald comments may  be translated as “Are you blind, yah stupid mug!” Well, he is. Apparently, they all are.

Many people are heartily sick and tired of the plethora of sports betting ads on TV. There are even some federal politicians who are trying to cut back or even ban TV sports betting ads. Most of us can remember when TV was absolutely loaded with commercials for cigarettes and alcohol. Not any more, thanks to public pressure.

Way back in 1960s I was working in Canada and I was taken by the quaint beer commercials that the Canadians watched on their TVs. I was in Toronto, which at the time had rather prudish liquor laws such as you could not purchase alcohol from any establishment where you could buy alcohol to drink, such as a hotel or tavern. You had to buy your take away booze from a special liquor shop. Not only that, you had to buy it in an outlet near your home, place your purchased liquor in the boot and then drive by the most direct route to your house. 

Even in your own home there were restrictions. One hot Saturday in September, after we had moved all of our furniture into a house we were renting, my friends and I sat on the front lawn drinking a refreshing stubby or three. After a while, the gentleman from next door, who was to become a very friendly neighbour, wandered outdoors, saw us drinking and told us that it was against the law to consume alcohol in the public view, even on your own front lawn. We were stunned when he explained that it was even against the law to drink alcohol inside your own home if you were sitting by a window and people could see you. They could ring the police and complain.

The Canadian beer ads usually had a family group sitting watching an ice hockey game. At a break in the play Mother would stand and say, “Who is ready for a Molsons?” Or a Labatt’s or an IPA or a Carling? Then she would disappear briefly. When she returned everyone brightened up as she approached with the beers. The only thing was that in Toronto you could not show an image of a beer bottle on TV. or of alcohol being poured or consumed. So, Mother’s drink tray was covered with a tea towel which was removed with the same sensuous allure as Gypsy Rose Lee’s outer garment. As eager hands reached forward the screen would go blank and then we would see a static picture advertising the beer that everyone was now, presumably, quaffing. I did revisit Toronto in the late 1990s and they had a much more enlightened attitude to alcohol. I did not watch TV so I do not know if they still do the cover up of the beer bottles.

I am not sorry that they no longer advertise alcohol and cigarettes on TV. I will be even happier if those politicians can get sports betting banned from our screens. It seems to me, though, that the government that is being asked to ban those sports ads has a vested interest in the revenue it gains from taxes on bookmakers and sports betting. I think governments will be reluctant to completely ban sports betting ads on TV.

Of course, the government may ban sports ads on TV but I wouldn't bet on it.

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