A CRACKDOWN on gambling ads on live sports coverage is being viewed as a small step forward in curbing problem gambling and making sport-watching more family-friendly.
“Parents all around Australia will be delighted when they know that during football matches and cricket matches, live sporting events before 8.30, there’ll be no more gambling ads,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on May 5, while travelling in the United States.
“This will be welcomed by Australian parents right around the nation.”
The ban covers not only ad breaks, but also on-screen promotions, sponsorships and live crosses to betting companies during the matches.
The idea is not new.
Senator Nick Xenophon has long championed a ban, as have many who work with problem gamblers.
Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton was among those to welcome the Government’s latest move, but to also call for more.
“Now that the Government has clearly expressed that gambling ads are harmful; the next logical step is for it to ban all gambling advertising,” Mr Shelton said.
“The ACL believes banning gambling advertising completely would be a winning strategy in tackling the cost borne by the community by problem gambling.”
Welfare groups such as the St Vincent de Paul Society know the cost of gambling.
They provide 24/7 helplines and face-to-face confidential counselling services for people with gambling problems and their families.
Productivity Commission figures from 2009 show that 400,000 Australians either are – or are at risk of being – problem gamblers, often unable to control the amount of time and money they spend gambling.
In that year the estimated cost to Australia was $4.7 billion.
Today, digital technologies are rapidly changing Australia’s gambling industry and the public health cost has increased.
Federal Government figures show online gambling is the fastest-growing gambling segment, growing at 15 per cent per annum, with more than $1.4 billion gambled online each year.
Digital technology is also enabling illegal operators to reach our phones, our televisions, our home computers at any time of the day or night.
The Federal Department of Social Services says Australians are losing between $64 million and $400 million every year betting with illegal offshore sites, and this means tax revenue is also lost.
“In the online world, the proportion of problem gambling is three times higher than in other forms of gambling,” the department claims on its website.
The Federal Government recognises that it will take more than a crackdown on TV ad breaks and promotions to truly tackle the expanding world of online problem gambling.
As a first step, it is working with state governments and the gaming industry to develop a national framework and introduce 18 identified recommendations contained in a review on illegal offshore wagering.