Sunday, July 14, 2024

Australian Labor urged to ban gambling inducements over concerns they target vulnerable citizens | Yogonet International

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The Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) has called on the Australian government to outlaw strategic inducements such as “bonus bets” and cashback offers, warning that these practices are luring Australians into problem gambling. The alliance blames weak advertising and consumer protection laws for enabling these promotions, which it says are designed to make customers believe they are placing “safer” bets and that winning is more likely.

In a policy paper released on Tuesday, the AGR criticized “risk-free” bets that offer refunds under certain conditions, describing them as highly enticing inducements that target people with gambling problems through tailored, personalized marketing. The paper argues that these so-called “rewards” often encourage further betting and come with terms and conditions that are difficult for the average consumer to understand.

Martin Thomas, the interim chief executive of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, stated that inducements could drive “some of the riskiest gambling behaviors” but are largely ignored by current regulations. The paper also raised concerns about direct marketing to gamblers via emails, texts, and phone calls, which promote such inducements.

The June 2023 report from the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Gambling, chaired by the late Labor MP Peta Murphy, recommended an immediate prohibition on all online gambling inducements and their advertising. However, more than a year after the report was tabled, the government has yet to respond. While federal Labor has implemented significant changes, such as the national BetStop self-exclusion register and banning credit cards for wagering, there is growing pressure for bolder action on advertising.

The shadow communications minister, David Coleman, criticized the government’s delay in resolving the issue. Meanwhile, Labor MP Susan Templeman, chair of the parliament’s standing committee on social policy and legal affairs, has written to the communications minister requesting an update on the government’s response.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland acknowledged the complexity of the policy area, expressing concerns about the unintended consequences of an advertising ban. She emphasized the government’s commitment to harm reduction and cultural change, stating: “We want to get these reforms right, to deliver both harm reduction and cultural change. It’s not a straightforward exercise, and we’re determined to ensure that our response is capable of implementation and makes a real difference when it comes to harm reduction.”

The AGR’s data shows that the number of Australians betting on sports has doubled in five years, with a third of all bets placed by people with gambling problems. The alliance’s policy paper highlights the significant harm caused by online gambling inducements, urging the government to adopt all 31 recommendations of the Murphy Report, including the ban on inducements and their advertising.

“It is time now for the government to do the right thing, to protect Australians from gambling harm and a predatory gambling industry,” Thomas said. “We cannot trust the gambling industry to police itself and we must start to protect people, especially our children, who are being targeted by gambling companies.”

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