Gambling giant Tabcorp's is handing out free jellybeans to commuters, branded with the website and the slogan 'nothing's as sweet as a win'.
The snack-size lolly packets were being dished out to the public during the peak hour commute at Martin Place in central Sydney this morning.
The giveaway has been criticised by the Greens as promoting gambling to children and the party says the lack of warnings on the packets could breach gambling ad laws.
The maximum fine for a breach would be $5,500.
Tabcorp is a publicly listed company with annual revenue of about $2 billion.
Is Tabcorp allowed to hand out jellybeans promoting gambling?
The short answer is: yes.
Advertising is self-regulated and overseen by the Advertising Standards Board, an industry body that has the power to uphold complaints but not to enforce fines. That means the ABS could ask Tabcorp to pull the ad if it breached any of its own rules.
But advertising experts say the lolly giveaway probably doesn't count as an ad.
If they're not part of an ad, the beans may still breach NSW legislation that states printed gambling advertising has to include the gambling helpline and website.
The jellybean packets do not feature these.
The legislation is overseen by the the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority. Hack has contacted the Authority for comment.
Justin Field, a Greens MLC for New South Wales, told Hack three people in Tabcorp shirts were handing out jellybeans at Martin Place this morning.
"Most people were getting handed a packet of jellybeans," he said.
"We know they're going to go in people's bags and be thrown on the table at the end of the day and end up in the hands of kids."
"This is a new low."
"Tabcorp has a moral responsibility. I don't think they should need Liquor and Gaming to tell them this isn't an appropriate form of advertising."
Tabcorp told Hack the promotion targeted only people aged 25 or over and was only carried out in central Sydney to mark the April horseracing championships.
It said the giveaway material also included mints and stress balls and featured only general TAB branding and contained no promotion of odds or direct encouragement to place a bet.
'Jellybeans probably don't breach ASB rules'
Jellybean giveaways probably won't come under the scrutiny of the ASB, according to Dr Lauren Rosewarne, an advertising and media expert and lecturer at University of Melbourne.
"This is probably PR, not advertising," she said.
She said the jellybeans may be classed as ads if each bean had been printed with the Tabcorp logo or a slogan, indicating they were part of a major campaign.
That means the lolly giveaway probably don't breach any advertising rules, although the content of the ad may still breach the trade regulations.
Dr Rosewarne said Tabcorp could have factored the potential $5,500 fine into its budget for the jellybean PR campaign.
"Fining in the field of advertising doesn't work," she said. "All companies do is factor it into marketing budget."
She said the only mechanism that did work was outright banning ads, but there was no public appetite for this kind of censorship.
As a result, she said, advertising agencies deliberately skirted the edge of the rules, knowing there would be little consequence for a breach.
She described the Tabcorp jellybean campaign, handing out jellybeans to the public, including potentially children, as "insidious".
"They know what they're doing, they're not idiots," she said.
Hack has contacted Tabcorp for comment.