Lobbyists Join Australia’s Gambling Ad Ban Controversy

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As Australia grapples with the potential implementation of a nationwide ban on gambling advertisements, various interest groups have been actively lobbying to have their voices heard by the country's Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, and her staff.

These lobbying efforts encompass a wide spectrum of industries, all of whom are concerned about the financial repercussions that may arise if the government decides to adopt the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm.

A Diverse Array of Concerned Parties

Documents obtained under freedom of information laws have shed light on the extensive range of stakeholders eager to weigh in on the proposed ban. Among those seeking meetings with Minister Rowland are gambling companies like Sportsbet, Crown, Betfair, Tabcorp, Betr, BlueBet, Pointsbet and Entain, which operates the Ladbrokes and Neds brands. These companies have expressed their concerns and reservations regarding the potential advertising ban.

Additionally, prominent sporting organizations such as the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL) have also secured meetings with the minister or her staff. Both sporting codes have openly voiced their opposition to the idea of banning gambling advertisements.

Broadcasters and Tech Giants Join the Discussion

Broadcasters, including Channel Nine, Channel Seven, Foxtel, Commercial Radio Australia, SBS, and Free TV, have also engaged in discussions surrounding the proposed ban. In their submission to the inquiry, Free TV, which represents commercial broadcasters, argued against further restrictions, cautioning that the removal of gambling advertisements could lead to a reduction in free sports coverage.

The government has extended its inquiries to major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and TikTok, requesting estimates of the potential financial impact of a total gambling ad ban on their platforms. These emails also ask the tech giants to disclose the number of children who have been exposed to gambling ads on their platforms and whether they have the capability to enforce such a ban.

TikTok, in particular, has faced criticism for allowing gambling companies to advertise on its platform, and similar concerns have been raised about Facebook and Google.

Greyhounds Australasia cited modeling conducted by gambling companies, asserting that a complete ban on inducements would lead to a "catastrophic reduction in revenues across the Australian racing industry." This claim was corroborated by the New South Wales body, which suggested that an immediate inducement ban could result in a significant reduction in racing and sports turnover.

In parallel to these lobbying efforts by industry players, the government has sought briefings from approximately a dozen harm reduction advocates. These advocates attended meetings that Minister Rowland participated in.

Calls for Swift Action

Independent MP Kate Chaney, a member of the inquiry into online gambling harm who obtained the documents, emphasized the urgency of the situation, urging the government to promptly adopt the committee's recommendations. She highlighted the need to prioritize community well-being and protect vulnerable individuals, especially children, from the influence of online gambling and sports betting advertisements.

A government spokesperson acknowledged the complexity of the issue and stated that the current state of online wagering advertising is untenable. The government intends to announce a comprehensive response in the near future, seeking a balance between regulating the gambling industry and protecting the public's interests.

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