Australia's Online Gambling Regime Lags Behind Europe and Asia

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Australia's online gambling regime has come under scrutiny as it falls behind its European and Asian counterparts, prompting calls for immediate action to protect children and the public.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has conducted a comprehensive analysis of global laws and regulatory frameworks related to online gambling, revealing that Australia is lagging behind in this regard.

The analysis, part of the charity's Online Gambling Policy, was released amidst an ongoing parliamentary review of online gambling in Australia, with recommendations expected to be made this month. According to the analysis, online gambling is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia, resulting in losses of over AU$7 billion ($4.62 billion) per year.

Carol Bennett, the CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, emphasized that while Australia struggles to implement bans on sports gambling ads before and after games, many European and Asian countries have already prohibited gambling advertisements in both traditional media and online platforms. Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK are among the nations that have surpassed Australia in terms of online gambling regulations.

Furthermore, the analysis points out that online gambling has rapidly evolved with technology, leaving researchers, policymakers, regulators, and governments ill-equipped to prevent the exponential growth of gambling-related harm. Bennett criticized the lack of investment by governments in independent harm reduction bodies due to fears of challenging their current "light touch gambling policy and regulation."

The comparison with Asian countries is equally unsettling. South Korea and Cambodia have implemented complete bans on online gambling, while others only permit gambling in designated casinos. Bennett warns of the dangerous convergence between gambling and gaming, with gambling-like features embedded in games that often lack age restrictions. In particular, she singled out Aristocrat, accusing the company of grooming young people through unrestricted apps that simulate the look and sound of poker machines.

Research cited in the analysis shows that online gambling is far more dangerous than gambling in landbased casinos, with 34% of online gamblers experiencing harm compared to only 15.6% of those gambling on poker machines.

In response, the Alliance for Gambling Reform is urging the government to take immediate action, including restricting children's and young people's exposure to online gambling, banning all gambling advertisements and promotions, and increasing enforcement against companies that breach these restrictions.

These calls for stricter regulations clash with a recent report by Responsible Wagering Australia, which argues that further restrictions on advertising in the legal market would benefit offshore operators.

Urgent Actions Need to Be Taken

Australia's online gambling regime is trailing behind Europe and Asia, leaving children, young people, and the public vulnerable to the harmful effects of excessive gambling. Urgent action is needed to rectify this situation, including the restriction of online gambling exposure for minors, the prohibition of gambling advertisements, and increased enforcement against violators.

The potential risks associated with online gambling necessitate a comprehensive and proactive approach by the Australian government to protect its citizens.

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