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Calls Growing To Restrict Gambling Ads As Government Weighs Reform

The Australian government is examining a proposed ban on gambling advertising, one of 31 recommendations from a June inquiry into online gambling harm, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland revealed. She noted that the current state of gambling advertising requires reform, and the proposed ban could cost media companies $300 million annually.

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Broadcasters Warn Of Impacts On Content Investment

Broadcasters and gambling operators have warned of significant negative impacts if advertising is phased out or heavily restricted. They argue it could affect their ability to invest in Australian content production. Advocacy group Free TV Australia stated that prohibiting ads would decrease spending on Australian programming by their members Channel 7, Channel 9 and Network 10. Similarly, Commercial Radio and Audio cautioned that major revenue reductions could negatively impact their capacity to invest in content production.

The head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Gai Le Roy, has voiced apprehension regarding the proposed total prohibition. She characterized it as an excessive measure. Le Roy cautioned that limiting advertising in the present financial environment could negatively impact the industry’s capacity to fund the provision of free online content and services.

Normalising Gambling For Children

But the parliamentary inquiry found the current level of gambling ads, especially during sport, is normalising betting for children. The inquiry recommended the ban apply across television, radio, newspapers and online over 3 years.

Committee chair Peta Murphy said the timeline would “give major sports and broadcasters time to find alternate advertisers and sponsors while preventing another generation from experiencing escalating online gambling harm“.

“Gambling advertising and simulated gambling through video games is grooming children and young people to gamble and encourages riskier behaviour,” Murphy said.

Government Careful In Response

The government is reluctant to put a timeframe on when it will respond. Rowland noted some recommendations are already being implemented, like the BetStop self-exclusion tool. The opposition has also advocated for reforms like banning gambling ads around live sports. Independent MP Zoe Daniel said the government should act as soon as possible to ban all gambling advertising.

The government insists it is weighing up the recommendations and feedback carefully.

But Rowland stated “the status quo is untenable, and change does need to be made in this area.”

Harm Reduction Strategies

The parliamentary inquiry made 31 recommendations in total, aimed at reducing gambling harm. Other proposals included implementing a comprehensive national harm reduction strategy.

An online gambling ombudsman would also be created to allow for complaints and disputes to be resolved. New harm reduction levies on operators would provide funding for treatment services. The government would also improve its data collection on gambling to better inform policymaking.

Political Pressure Building

The opposition has been applying political pressure on the gambling advertising issue.

Peter Dutton announced a Coalition policy to ban gambling ads around live sports, which proved popular.

The opposition has used parliamentary tactics to embarrass the government over a lack of action so far. This is despite gambling policy being more traditionally associated with progressive parties like Labor.

Anti-gambling advocates and crossbench MPs have also called for Communications Minister Michelle Rowland to resign. They want quicker action on implementing an advertising ban given Rowland’s election campaign was funded by Sportsbet.

Pokie Reforms Still Key

While betting advertising is in the spotlight, pokie/gaming machine reforms are still seen as crucial by harm reduction advocates. Most problem gamblers seeking treatment have pokie-related addictions, rather than sports betting.

The parliamentary inquiry acknowledged the dangers posed by the proliferation of betting promotions. But reformers stress tighter regulations on poker machines in pubs and clubs is just as critical. Both major parties have been reluctant to significantly overhaul pokie rules due to lobbying pressure.

Decisions Ahead As Pressure Rises

The government is proceeding cautiously in examining gambling advertising restrictions. But Communications Minister Rowland argues maintaining the status quo is not an option amid rising community concerns. With political and advocacy group pressure building, reforms seem inevitable despite warnings from media and betting companies.

How extensive bans or other limits will be remains to be seen as the government weighs up competing interests. Reducing gambling harm, especially among youth and problem gamblers, is the key focus for advocates.