A new analysis of laws and regulatory regimes applicable to online gambling across the world found that Australia is lacking behind many of its European and Asian counterparts, urging the government to take action and stop the industry from grooming children for a life of gambling.
Gambling Advertising in the Crosshairs
Conducted by the Alliance for Gambling Reform and released today as part of the charity’s Online Gambling Policy, the analysis and its disturbing findings come up during an ongoing parliamentary review of online gambling in Australia, with the committee due to make recommendations this month.
Commenting on the analysis, the chief executive officer of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Carol Bennett, said that the analysis shows “why online gambling is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia,” incurring more than AU$7 billion ($4.62 billion) in losses to Australians each year.
“While Australia dithers on banning sports gambling ads an hour before and after a game, many countries across Europe and Asia have simply banned all gambling advertisements in traditional media and online,” Bennett said.
The analysis found that Australia’s online gambling regime was significantly behind some of the major European countries, including Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK.
Italy and Spain banned all gambling advertisements on TV, radio and the Internet, Spain and the Netherlands went even further by putting greater restrictions on ads, while in the UK, restrictions to logos on sports jerseys and in-stadia ads were proposed with the White Paper.
Unable to Prevent Gambling Harm
Pointing out that the rapid evolvement of online gambling with technology has left behind researchers, policymakers, regulators and governments and made them unable to prevent the exponential growth of gambling harm, Bennett fiercely criticized the governments for their lack of investments in independent harm reduction bodies out of fear of having their “light touch gambling policy and regulation” challenged.
Bennett also pointed to Asia, where countries like South Korea and Cambodia have completely banned online gambling and others allow gambling only in casinos, as examples of stricter gambling regimes than Australia’s.
“Most dangerously this is allowing a convergence between gambling and gaming that is targeted at young people,” she said, pointing out that “gambling-like features are now embedded in gaming and most have no age restrictions,” singling out Aristocrat as “grooming young people through unrestricted apps that mimic the look and sound of poker machines.”
Act Quickly to Rectify the Situation
The analysis pointed to research that shows that 34% of people who gamble online experience gambling harm as compared to only 15.6% of those gambling on poker machines, concluding that online gambling is a far more dangerous form of gambling than gambling in casinos.
The Alliance is urging the government to act immediately and restrict children’s and young people’s exposure to online gambling, ban all gambling ads and all forms of online gambling promotion, advertising and inducements, with increased enforcement against companies breaching these restrictions.
The call conflicts with a recent report by Responsible Wagering Australia which claimed that further restrictions on the legal market’s ability to advertise itself will benefit offshore operators.