29 June 2023

Advocates welcome recommendation to ban online gambling ads

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Australians lose the most in the world per capita on online gambling. Photo: File.

Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance co-chair Katie Seselja has welcomed the findings of an inquiry into the impact of online gambling, saying they brought “transparency and clarity” to the issue.

“This public health crisis is now finally being addressed by a slow but steady political will,” she said.

“We need urgent national gambling reforms, and this set of recommendations helps create a pathway for that process.”

You win some, you lose more – Online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm was compiled by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs and is the result of 13 public committee hearings held since November 2022. The report makes 31 recommendations, including banning all online gambling advertising.

“It deserves immediate bipartisan support, and it will be very telling that those who don’t support this are captured by the industry and therefore part of the problem that has allowed Australia to be the number one target of gambling companies and the biggest losers in the world,” Ms Seselja said.

ACT MLA for Murrumbidgee and the former Director of the ANU’s Centre for Gambling Research, Dr Marisa Paterson, also supported the recommendation to ban online gambling advertising.

“This has been long-needed,” she said.

“There’s evidence of the harm it is causing, and it is critically important that the Albanese Government moves on that recommendation.”

Dr Paterson said she would like to see gambling advertising removed from all forms of media.

“We know how harmful this advertising is. We’ve seen it with cigarettes. We’ve seen it with alcohol.

“For some reason, gambling advertising has proliferated through our community and through our media for the last decade. Now we’re seeing the results in terms of the impacts in our communities, particularly with young men who experience very high rates of harm from online gambling.”

Australians lose over $25 billion per year on all legal forms of gambling and lose the most in the world per capita on online gambling. The participation rate of online gamblers rose sharply from 12.7 per cent of the Australian population in 2010 to 30.7 per cent in 2019.

The standing committee received and published more than 150 submissions from private individuals, religious groups, counselling and medical organisations, educational institutions, politicians and government bodies, media and advertising organisations, sporting groups, and gaming organisations.

Referred by Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and chaired by Member for Dunkley Peta Murphy, the committee undertook a comprehensive review of evidence submitted about the harms of online gambling, including whether current laws, regulations, consumer protections, education and support programs are fit-for-purpose.

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The resultant report included a number of recommendations, including:

  • That responsibility for online gambling harm reduction is held by a single Australian Government Minister
  • That federal, state and territory governments develop a national strategy on online gambling harm reduction
  • That national regulations and a national online gambling regulator be established
  • That an ongoing online gambling public education campaign with national advertising and marketing be developed and funded
  • That the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Australian Gambling Research Centre be appropriately resourced to take on an additional role as a national clearing house for gambling research
  • That the government develop and implement technical solutions to block offshore gambling websites and known illegal gambling operators
  • That the government work with the Australian Banking Association to develop a set of minimum gambling consumer protection standards
  • That a national regulation be established to require customers’ identities to be verified before the commencement of online gambling, and
  • That government prohibit all online gambling inducements and inducement advertising and that it do so without delay.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said the government was committed to ensuring that online gambling occurred within a robust legislative framework with strong consumer protections.

“This report provides a comprehensive review of online gambling and outlines options to reduce gambling harms in Australia. I thank the committee for its work and the many Australians with lived experiences, advocates and industry groups who participated in this process,” she said.

“The government will now consider the report and its recommendations in full, and in consultation with key stakeholders, before outlining proposed reforms.”

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Even before the committee’s report, the government had put in place reforms to reduce gambling harms, including committing to ban credit cards for online wagering, progressing classification reform to protect children from simulated gambling in computer games, and implementing new evidence-based taglines to replace ‘gamble responsibly’ that convey the risks and potential harm from online wagering.

The government will soon also launch BetStop, a national self-exclusion register as part of the National Consumer Protection Framework to be implemented.

In a release this week, the Alliance for Gambling Reform said the “Federal Government and the Opposition must commit to give bipartisan support to the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling that has called for a blanket ban to sports gambling implemented over three years”.

Ms Rishworth said the government would consider all recommendations of the inquiry and work closely with states and territories on what comes next.

The committee’s full report can be found here.

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