Saturday, July 13, 2024

Gambling Reform Alliance calls on Commonwealth to strengthen Northern Territory’s online gambling laws | PS News

Must read

The PM with Tim Costello and Alliance CEO Carol Bennett.

Alliance CEO Carol Bennett and Chief Advocate Tim Costello met with the Prime Minister in November to discuss the more than $25 billion a year Australians lose to gambling – the highest per capita spend globally. Photo: Alliance for Gambling Reform.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has called on the Commonwealth to resolve the Northern Territory Government’s poor regulation of online gambling advertising, and not offer the nation up as a tax haven to multi-billion dollar foreign operators.

CEO Carol Bennett said the key reason adults and young people were being bombarded with this advertising was the government was effectively operating as the country’s online gambling regulator.

“The NT Government – which benefits from large revenues generated from online gambling – has now given itself the power of veto over the decisions of all other authorities,” said Ms Bennett.

“This not only reduces transparency, but also gives people no confidence that the government will act to reduce gambling harm, especially given significant regulatory failures already identified by the national online gambling inquiry.”

Over two years from August 2017, the Menzies School of Health Research led a study on the Territory’s regulated gambling industry and found that it was a significant part of their economy.

In 2014-15 revenues collected from providers accounted for 10 per cent of all revenue raised directly by the Territory government, and expenditure through these gambling providers was equivalent to more than 30 per cent of all retail trade for that year, in stark contrast to 15 years prior when it wasn’t particularly exceptional by national standards.

The period between saw the region’s industry rapidly expand both in terms of turnover (328 per cent) and expenditure (377 per cent), with a more modest increase in government revenue (53 per cent). Nearly all these changes were due to increases in online wagering.

Combined annual turnover for Territory regulated racing and sports betting gambling activities (mostly online) increased to $9.73 billion, while expenditure rose to $0.94 billion.

Yet the 2014-15 period saw numbers close to those levels in 2000-01 – declining back to $10 million.

In that year the Territory’s industry dominated Australia’s combined racing and sports betting industries (39.3 per cent of national turnover, 25.8 per cent of national expenditure). Yet the government’s regulated gambling revenue was disproportionately small, making up just 4 per cent of all state and territory governments’ revenues derived from racing and sports betting gambling.

As a result, the report found it questionable whether the current state and territory-based arrangements for regulating the gambling industry were adequate or appropriate for protecting the best interests of Australian society, especially given the size of today’s online presence, let alone its likely future size.

The 2024 Racing and Wagering Bill put to parliament by the Territory government will create a dedicated commission and director to be appointed by the Chief Minister, with it all funded by a new fund levy. As a result, the Chief Minister can intervene on decisions about which probity assessments or complaints will be referred to the NT Racing Commission (NTRC).

“The bill tries to paint a rosy picture of the Northern Territory’s ‘tough approach’ to online gambling regulation while making minimal changes that don’t address the current regulatory failure,” said Ms Bennett.

She said the government claimed that all key stakeholders were consulted, but the Alliance understood that all but one of those entities were gambling companies and their lobby groups.

“The bill also fails to curb the conflicts of interest of the NTRC members who have a cosy relationship with the gambling industry, including owning gambling interests in some instances,” said Ms Bennett.

Currently there are no gambling help services in remote NT Indigenous communities, yet related problems in those populations have been found to be significantly higher than in other population groups.

This bill has been presented to the Federal Government as they consider their response to a multi-party parliamentary inquiry into online gambling, which was chaired by the late Peta Murphy MP.

Alliance Chief Advocate, Tim Costello, said it was time for the government to act.

He said for eight months they’d had the recommendations, along with a reasoned and phased-in ban on all gambling advertising over three years.

“Gambling harm is a massive public health issue, linked to poor physical and mental health, poverty and homelessness, criminal activity, family violence, and suicide,” said Mr Costello.

“We are extremely concerned about the rapidly increasing harms caused by online gambling, and by the massive advertising of online gambling through a range of media including digital/social media channels.”

Latest article