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Deyan Dimitrov November 29, 2023 3 min read
Former Gambling Addict Highlights Australia’s Urgent Need for Reforms
The federal government has rallied against problem gambling but faces significant criticism for its slow progress amidst the country’s ongoing struggle with gambling addiction
A recent ABC News article delved into the story of an anonymous gambling addiction victim who shared his experiences, revealing the lack of player protection mechanisms in many Australian jurisdictions. His recovery story can be a valuable lesson for Australian authorities as they rally to bring order to the country’s gambling sector and introduce measures to curb rapidly rising gambling addiction rates.
Australia Remains Wracked with Problem Gambling
Michael, a 45-year-old Queensland resident, shared his unfortunate experiences after he placed his first bet on a horse race at age 17. The following decades of addiction saw him suffer from bankruptcy and heartbreak as his life hit rock bottom. Michael managed to recover and remains an active member of Gamblers Anonymous, but highlighted several concerning industry trends.
Michael voiced concerns about the accessibility of gambling to young people, especially with rampant advertising. He noted that the introduction of online wagering had made it easier than ever to get hooked, advocating for limited or complete gambling advertising bans and emphasizing the importance of support systems like Gamblers Anonymous. His opinions align with many industry experts who believe it is time for urgent change.
There are five times as many gambling ads on TV for sports or race betting than there are alcohol ads.Alex Russell, CQUniversity Gambling Research Laboratory academic
The federal government conducted an inquiry in late June, revealing Australians as the world’s highest per capita spenders on gambling, losing $25 billion annually. The study recommended a phased ban on all gambling advertising across states and territories within three years, citing concerns about grooming children into gamblers.
The Government Has Been Slow to Respond
Despite evidence of rising gambling harm, the Australian federal government has not enacted any advertising recommendations and is still deliberating its response. The Alliance for Gambling Reform, through chief advocate Tim Costello, urges swift action, accusing the delay of signaling a cozy relationship between the government and the betting industry.
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland issued a joint statement, expressing the government’s intent to consider the report’s recommendations and collaborate with stakeholders for a response. However, the gambling industry remains reluctant to reduce advertising without regulation, citing fears of losing out to competitors.
We need a more coordinated approach to reducing gambling advertising that’s fair for everyone.Alex Russell, CQUniversity Gambling Research Laboratory academic
Michael’s story emphasizes the urgent need for regulatory action, not just for those currently afflicted by gambling addiction but also to safeguard the future generation. While Australia has achieved some progress, problem gambling remains a rising concern. Decisive action and new, effective regulations remain the only feasible option to combat this pervasive issue.