Australia: Melbourne-based council mayor bans gambling ads from local sports games, asks others to follow suit

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Tina Samardzija, the mayor of City of Monash, a local council in Melbourne (Victoria), has called on councils across Australia to follow her policy of banning gambling advertisements from local sports venues and urged them to not wait for federal or state action.

The City of Monash’s anti-gambling policy, which is thought to be the first of its sort in Australia, is being opposed by gaming establishments who feel unfairly singled out and local sports clubs who fear they may be forced to close.

The new guidelines stipulate that sports clubs will eventually be prohibited from using council-owned clubhouses and playgrounds if they continue to show the logos of sponsors who own gambling machines.

“Local governments should absolutely play a bigger role in preventing gambling harm and dismissed claims that councils should not be involved in social policy,” said Samardzija, as quoted by The Guardian.

“Our community is very concerned about young people being exposed to gambling. In my view, there is nothing that’s more of a local government issue than kids going to play sport at their local clubs and being exposed to a message that gambling is normal,” she added.

The total collection by local poker machines during financial year 2021-22 in the City of Monash was estimated to be around A$84.9 million. Mulgrave Country Club, one of the biggest gambling venues, collected A$7.1 million and is known for sponsoring several local sports clubs.

The club’s president, Peter Delaney, said, “We are a nonprofit and only give away our money to local community groups and sporting clubs. Mulgrave Country Club has been contacted by numerous community sporting clubs who are concerned the annual funding they receive from us may cease.”

In response to Delaney, Samardzija said, “That requirement is there for a reason. It’s there because of the harm they cause to the local community. So it’s something we feel they should continue to do, but it’s certainly not something they should receive sponsorship accolades for.”

Meanwhile, the president of the Community Clubs Victoria, Andrew Lloyd, stated that they were looking to take the legal route and contest the policy.

“This is being politicized unfairly and unjustly. What this is doing is actually dividing people, and it’s not good. Council should be leading by example and helping with things, not actually trying to divide people and impose things on them that are really Draconian,” Lloyd said in a statement.

A club spokesperson added, “The financial implications of this policy are very concerning for us – like most senior sporting clubs we have local pubs and clubs as longtime sponsors, contributing considerable sums of money every year.”

“Against this backdrop we now have council, as our landlord, attempting to dictate who can and cannot sponsor our club – this apparently extends to us simply displaying a pub or club’s logo as recognition in internal communications with members,” the spokesperson concluded.

Clubs would have up to four years to adjust to the new policy, according to Samardzija, and the council can help them in finding new sponsors if required. In her statement, Samardzija said, “Some clubs are more concerned than others and others are more reliant on financial support from gambling venues than others.”