There are nine ‘must nots’ written into the advertising code which regulates the promotion of wagering in Australia but unfortunately, none of them expressly prohibit treating punters as a bunch of idiots.
One of the most successful tropes of the corporate bookmaking era, the ‘mug punter’ is the central character of nearly every promotion of betting in Australia, be it on racing or sport.
Advertising companies have taken the Aussie larrikin figure, which was so successfully used in marketing everything from World Series Cricket to beer and cigarettes in the 1970s and 1980s, and turned him into a lovable ‘anti-hero’ for the digital betting age.
What’s more, he – and it is almost unfailingly he – is now portrayed, in his idiotic splendour, in company. We are now implored to ‘Bet With Mates’ or ‘Get involved in Mates Mode’.
In one aspect, this ‘socialisation’ of wagering helps normalise betting in a social context by bringing it away from the insular relationship between a punter and his betting apps.
But on another level, it is a commercial model that bookies are so keen to pursue because they are backing in the old theory that a group of men is far more likely to take risks than one man on his own. The theory is that the ‘one-upmanship’ of a social group, particularly a male one, elevates appetite for risk and puts the bookie in an even more profitable position.
Portrayed as all epic moments and high fives, it is a clever ploy, especially considering one of the ‘must nots’ of wagering advertising is portraying peer pressure in a wagering context. These platforms may facilitate peer pressure but do not actively promote it.
All under the guise, of course, of gambling responsibly.