Australia: Parliamentary committee calls for ban on gambling ads within three years to curb addiction

An Australian parliamentary committee has urged the federal government to ban advertising for online gambling during sporting events within three years, in the backdrop of what has been described as a crisis threatening the financial and mental health of Australians.

The committee, chaired by Labor MP Peta Murphy, released the findings of an inquiry into the harm posed by online gambling. It made 31 recommendations on how the industry should be regulated, and how those suffering from gambling addiction should be supported. 

One of the major recommendations is a phased ban on advertising directing punters to websites and apps to place bets, over three years. The phased ban would give sporting bodies and broadcasters enough time to find alternative sources of advertising revenue.

Additionally, the committee is calling for a national regulator for online gambling since at the moment it’s regulated across various states, with only some input from the federal government under the Broadcasting Act.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would consider the recommendations. “We need to deal with online issues, we need to deal with social media issues, we need to deal with it comprehensively across the board,” Albanese said on ABC Gold Coast radio.

The proposed ban could deal a major blow for online gaming companies like London-listed Flutter Entertainment – owner of the most popular betting app in Australia, Sportsbet, Entain PLC – owner of third-ranked app Ladbrokes, and Tabcorp Holdings.

Australia’s gambling problem

Murphy noted that Australians were among the biggest gambling losers anywhere in the world, as reported by ABC. She also argues that previous attempts to regulate gambling advertising had failed to address the problem, which is why a more direct approach is needed.

People don’t like it — they feel they’re inundated with advertising, they are very concerned that children are exposed and exposed regularly to ads for sports betting,” Murphy said. “There’s a concern that we are producing, if we haven’t already produced, another generation of Australians who see sport and betting as intrinsically linked, and sport almost as a vehicle for which betting can occur.”

In the report, titled You win some, you lose more,’ the parliamentary committee explains that Australians outspend the citizens of every other country on online gambling. Murphy commented: “This is wreaking havoc in our communities.” She asserted that online gambling companies advertise deliberately and strategically alongside sports. The ads are normalized as a ‘fun, harmless, and sociable’ activity.

“Australia would be diminished if the sport was to be so captured by gambling revenue that providing an opportunity for betting came to be seen as its primary purpose,” added the Labor MP.

There are currently some restrictions placed in Australia for gambling ads. These include gambling advertisements not being aired within 5 minutes of a sporting event starting or finishing. However, many believe these efforts are not sufficient.

“The restrictions that were brought in had the unintended consequence of advertising outside of those times exponentially increasing,” Murphy said. “Australians feel like there’s more advertising because there is.” The MP called for a national strategy for the prevention of gambling addiction. 

She suggested: “We need to remove some of the stigma and the blame that’s put on people in order to be able to help people to seek assistance. A national strategy needs to look at prevention — so education, early intervention, measures that make it easier for people to stop gambling if they’re experiencing harm, that make it harder for people to gamble in a way which leads to harm — and then better, more comprehensive treatment.”