11 November 2007

Racing pitches gambling to children

Earlier this week, on Melbourne Cup Day, I noticed Channel 7 interviewing seven-year-olds as part of it’s Cup-day broadcast. The subject: what they were betting on. At the time I commented on another blog of mine, This Aussie Life, that it was promoting gambling.

Well, I’m taking it up a notch, because on last night’s Channel 10 news, racing was at it again. This time the station highlighted youngsters’ participation in a fashion parade during the Melbourne Spring Carnival.

It’s obvious that racing is attempting to build a “relationship” with kiddies. After all, they are the future punters who will help keep the $10 billion Australian gambling industry going. What better (seemingly innocent) way that to innocently portray them as fashionistas? Clever PR perhaps, but lacking in morality. Isn’t it absurd enough that a seven-year-old dresses up in suit and tie at a racetrack?

The industry, aided and abetted by sponsor Emirates Airlines, should be held accountable by regulatory authorities. It’s enough that children are assailed daily by advertising for products. But to have them targeted as future gamblers is breaking the laws of moral decency.

Sadly, there’s nothing in the PRIA Code of Ethics that covers this type of operation. The closest is: “Members shall avoid conduct or practices likely to bring discredit upon themselves, the Institute, their employers or clients.” Well, maybe if someone exerts a little pressure, Emirates and Racing will feel somewhat discredited.

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The PR Lab is a consultancy, specialising on research, reputation management, social media, media relations and the development of measurable strategies that produce results. It is run by Dr Greg Smith, a former journalist and PR professional. Greg worked on daily newspapers in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. He held senior PR positions in the Australian Defence Force, Sydney Olympics and national not-for-profits. He has also lectured in PR at Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame Australia.