Australia: Stakeholders react to parliamentary committee’s recommendations on online gambling

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The gambling industry stakeholders, sports leagues and experts have reacted to the findings and recommendations of the parliamentary committee inquiry on online gambling. One of the 31 recommendations include a complete ban on gambling advertisements in the next three years, terming it the only way to avoid serious harm caused by addiction.

The current scenario, according to parliamentary committee chair Peta Murphy, is “grooming children and young people to gamble and encourages riskier behavior”. Furthermore, several people have reportedly been suffering from gambling addiction.

Current rules dictate that gambling advertisements cannot be aired within five minutes of a sporting event starting or finishing. In case of a sport with long breaks, adverts can be shown but only for events taking place after 8:30 pm.

After the report was made public yesterday the stakeholders have responded to the recommendations. While some people are in support of the total ban on gambling advertisements, many others are calling it a step too far which will jeopardize the future of certain sports organisations and local broadcasters.

Here are some of the reactions –

Kai Cantwell, chief of Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), a body which represents gambling giants including Sportsbet, PointsBet and Ladbrokes, said, “Other more measured options which could be considered by the government include capping the numbers of gambling ads to be shown. By doing this, the expectations of the community to see less advertising would be met, while also maintaining the crucial support to sporting codes and local broadcasters.”

Travis Auld, chief financial officer, Australian Football League (AFL), who felt it was too early to give any response, said,”Any changes we make and the consequences of those changes need to be well thought through and well understood. There are some significant decisions within there that have impacts potentially on our industry.”

“Of course money is part of it. It’s what allows us to keep our prices where we are, it’s what allows us to invest in boys and girls playing football at this level,” Auld added.

As of now, the AFL has an $8 million a year deal with Sportsbet.

Bridget Fair, CEO of Free TV Australia, termed the complete ban on gambling advertisements a kneejerk reaction, saying, “Many of the sports broadcasting deals have been agreed to beyond the three-year phase-out period for advertising.”

On the other hand, several other stakeholders and experts have welcomed the idea of a complete ban on gambling advertisements –

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “There is absolutely a need for a national strategy to combat the profound gambling harm that is being wrought in communities across Australia. Each year gambling rips AU$25 billion ($16.5 billion) in losses out of our communities.”

Adam Rytenskild, chief of Tabcorp, said, “Tabcorp welcomes the committee’s recommendation for a nationally consistent regulatory framework. All wagering operators should have to adhere to the same regulations.”

Kei Sakata, executive manager of Australian Gambling Research Centre, lauded the committee for their recommendations, calling it a crucial step in reducing gambling harm. Sakata also supported the committee’s recommendations of having a national classifications scheme and effective warning labels for simulated gambling games and loot boxes.

Samantha Thomas, gambling researcher, Deakin University, said the ban on inducements was important to reduce community harm.

“Our research shows that marketing around free bets or money-back offers can create perception for children that gambling has little risk attached to it. Some children also tell us that they would bet when they are older if they got a good ‘deal’ from a gambling company,” she said.