Gambling advertisements could be forbidden in Australia within three years, as the Albanese government mulls recommendations of the report following the parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm.
The report, written by the House of Representatives standing committee on social policy and legal affairs and tabled on Wednesday, provides 31 recommendations that emerged from the lengthy inquiry this year.
This masthead revealed on Monday that the phased advertising ban was one of the likely recommendations of the report.
The committee also recommended the government implement a comprehensive national strategy on gambling harm reduction, create an online gambling ombudsman, impose new harm reduction levies, and improve its data collection.
Committee chair Peta Murphy said the timeline for the ads ban would “give major sports and broadcasters time to find alternate advertisers and sponsors while preventing another generation from experiencing escalating gambling harm”.
Gambling advertising provides a large source of revenue for Australia’s broadcast networks, with a total of $310 million spent by the sector in 2022, according to data from Nielsen’s Ad Intel Panel. More than 50 per cent is estimated to be spent on commercial television.
The federal government, which is not required to implement the committee’s recommendations, is expected to face significant pressure from the country’s biggest sporting codes and media companies not to adopt them.
The government has faced months of pressure over its gambling policies and has been keen for the committee to conclude its work so it can announce new measures to curtail spending on gambling advertising.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland faced calls to resign from anti-gambling advocates and progressive crossbench MPs who want a ban on ads after this masthead revealed Sportsbet made significant financial contributions to her election campaign.
The government has signalled a crackdown on gambling ads, which polling shows are unpopular with voters. As Labor has spent months waiting on the committee’s report, the Coalition moved ahead of the government by announcing it would ban ads around sporting events.
The measure has proved one of opposition leader Peter Dutton’s most popular policy announcements and the opposition has tried to use the issue to embarrass Labor on the floor of parliament, upping political pressure on a harm reduction issue that would ordinarily attract less attention from the market-oriented opposition than the more interventionist Labor Party.
The government is expected to move quickly to respond to the inquiry’s findings and announce new policies.
The biggest cause of gambling harm in Australia is poker machines – most problem gamblers in treatment have machine-related addictions. But many gambling harm experts say gambling advertisements of any description can encourage young people and those with existing gambling problems to seek out betting when they would otherwise abstain.
Free TV Australia, which has acted on behalf of the networks – Seven, Nine (the owner of this masthead) and Ten – has been approached for comment.
Responsible Wagering Australia – which represents some of the country’s biggest bookmakers, including Sportsbet and Entain – argues that restricting regulated wagering providers from advertising will only entice those at risk of gambling harm to seek out unregulated bookies, who will not abide by the rules.
Earlier this year during the hearing, Tabcorp advocated for a ban on broadcast advertising, with chief executive Adam Rytenskild dubbing it a “line in the sand” moment for the industry.
While rivals have accused Tabcorp of taking this position to protect its market share, they concede that the public is opposed to the proliferation of betting ads.
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Source: Thanks smh.com