In a bid to influence the outcome of a proposed total ban on wagering advertising, an array of influential stakeholders — including gambling companies, broadcasters, sporting codes, and global tech giants — have engaged in discussions with communications minister Michelle Rowland and her staff.
The proposed ban, stemming from a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm, has drawn concerns from diverse sectors anticipating a potential financial blow.
According to documents released under freedom of information, the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL), which oppose the ad ban, have secured two meetings with Minister Rowland or her staff since the recommendation surfaced.
Gambling industry leaders such as Sportsbet, Crown, Betfair, Tabcorp, Betr, BlueBet and Entain have also voiced their apprehensions in meetings with the minister or her staff.
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), the peak body representing the gambling industry, was requested to elaborate on its opposition to the proposed ban.
In a letter from Richard Windeyer, deputy secretary of the communications department, RWA was informed that the provided information would contribute to the evidence base for the government’s deliberations on potential recommendations.
Broadcasters, including Channel Nine, Channel Seven, Foxtel, Commercial Radio Australia, SBS and Free TV, have also sought meetings with Minister Rowland.
Free TV, representing commercial broadcasters, cautioned against further restrictions, suggesting that free sports coverage might be jeopardised.
Google, Facebook and TikTok were not exempt from the government’s inquiries, as they were asked to estimate the financial implications of a total ban on gambling ads.
The government sought information on how many children were exposed to gambling ads on their platforms and the feasibility of implementing such a ban.
Greyhounds Australasia, citing modelling from gambling companies, claimed that a total ban on inducements would result in a “catastrophic reduction in revenues across the Australian racing industry”.
Similar concerns were echoed by Greyhound Racing New South Wales, projecting a 33% reduction in racing and sports turnover.
While harm reduction advocates briefed the government on their perspectives, independent MP Kate Chaney emphasised the need for swift action.
Chaney, a member of the inquiry into online gambling harm, urged the government to adopt the committee’s recommendations to honour the legacy of the late Labor MP Peta Murphy.
“Six months have now passed since Peta Murphy tabled the report in parliament, and the government is yet to announce its response,” she said.
“In the wake of Peta’s death, politicians from across the parliament voiced support for implementing the recommendations in full to her honour her legacy.
“This is an opportunity for the Albanese government to demonstrate it’s got the guts to stand up to the gambling lobby, and to prioritise our kids, to prioritise community mental health, to prioritise the victims of this insidious industry — by banning the ads that promote online gambling and sports betting.”
In response, a government spokesperson stated that the broad engagement with various stakeholders was necessary as the government contemplates restrictions on the gambling industry.
The spokesperson highlighted the government’s commitment to addressing the untenable status quo of online wagering advertising and promised a comprehensive response in due course.
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