13 February 2012
Andrew presents the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform’s report on online gambling and gambling advertising to the House of Representatives.
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:09): On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, I present the committee’s report entitled Second report: interactive and online gambling and gambling advertising; and Interactive Gambling and Broadcasting Amendment (Online Transactions and Other Measures) Bill 2011, incorporating additional comments, together with evidence received by the committee.
Online gambling is the fastest growing form of gambling in Australia. In fact Australians spend around $790 million each year playing overseas online casino-type games and around the same amount on sports betting in Australia, increasingly in the online format. Those involved are not your typical poker machine player or racetrack goer but rather younger people, particularly younger men.
The primary legislation covering online gambling in Australia is the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. The committee examined this legislation and found that it had been very effective in banning the provision of Australian based interactive gambling services to Australians. Consequently we agreed that the act should be retained and recommended a strengthening of its ban on certain advertising practices, such as ‘practice’ websites and offering inducements to gamble. However, committee members took different views on how to address the area where the IGA appears to be most deficient—that is, the ability of the IGA to limit or restrict Australians accessing overseas online gambling services.
Another key area covered by the committee’s report was gambling advertising, particularly in association with sport. Gambling during sport has become normalised in Australia and the committee agreed there should be much stricter regulation in this area.
What was also evident during the inquiry was the significant community concern about the proliferation of advertising for sports betting services. Children in particular are being constantly bombarded with advertising for gambling during sporting programs and the committee heard alarming stories about children and young people now not talking about their team’s form but instead talking about their team’s odds.
Experts told the committee that the proliferation of advertising at sporting venues and during sporting broadcasts could be having an adverse impact on children who are vulnerable to such marketing—that it is contributing to what has been called the ‘gamblification’ of sport. In other words the abundance of gambling advertising during sport is normalising gambling for children.
While the committee welcomes the work already underway by government and industry to reduce and control the broadcasting of live odds, our report calls for a total ban on their promotion, underpinned by legislation. The committee has also recommended that the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 be amended to prohibit gambling advertising during times when children are likely to be watching, including all sporting broadcasts during those times.
The committee also examined the risk of match fixing and welcomes the current work underway through the Council of Australian Governments to develop the national policy on match fixing. We also looked at certain bet types such as ‘in play’ betting and exotic betting and recommended further research on the risks of such practices.
And finally the committee considered Senator Xenophon’s Interactive Gambling and Broadcasting Amendment (Online Transactions and Other Measures) Bill 2011. While generally supportive of the intent of several proposals in the bill—for example, on advertising and match fixing—the committee formed the view that more work was required and the bill should not be passed in its present form.
The committee received a total of 78 submissions and heard from a wide variety of interested stakeholders during the inquiries. In response, 20 recommendations were made across three key areas: the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Interactive Gambling Act, online sports betting and wagering services, and advertising for overseas and domestic online gambling sites.
These inquiries have been a valuable opportunity for the committee to learn about relatively new forms of gambling which are entering a period of rapid growth. This is timely because now is the time to learn the lessons from the liberalisation of other forms of gambling, such as poker machines, and to do all we can to reduce further harm.
I sincerely thank all those who submitted material and I thank the witnesses for their contributions. I want to also thank all committee members for their interest and participation in this inquiry and for their genuine spirit of cooperation. And in particular I want to thank the committee’s secretariat staff—Ms Lyn Beverley, Ms Meg Banfield and Ms Katie Bird—who have done a very fine job over of a number of inquiries in sometimes difficult circumstances. I commend the report to the House.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.