GAMBLING. Approved by the National Council November 2014

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1 Public Issues Advisory Committee GAMBLING Approved by the National Council November 2014 Between 80,000 and 160,000 Australian adults have severe gambling problems and the estimated negative social cost of gambling to Australia is at least $4.7 billion, when measured in financial terms. 1 In human terms, the negative consequences range from financial hardship to family breakdown and suicide. The risks of problem gambling are low for people who only play lotteries and scratchies, but rise steeply with the frequency of gambling on table games, wagering and, especially, electronic gaming machines (EGMs). EGMs, known colloquially as Pokies, remain the key form of gambling that causes harm in the community, with more than three quarters of problem gamblers losing their money on the pokies. Of the money lost on Pokies it is estimated that a staggering 40% of the revenue comes from people with gambling problems. 2 The Rise of Sports Betting Watching sport is a popular Australian pass- time and we acknowledge that people will occasionally want to have a bet on a game. However the ubiquitous advertising has seen a push for betting on sport become the norm rather than an occasional activity. The sport of horse racing has obviously always been synonymous with betting, but there is no doubt that popular sports such as AFL, Rugby and Cricket have been hijacked by betting agencies. Advertising for gambling should be more strictly regulated as a potentially harmful product and should be banned before 9:30pm. Some of the latest advertising campaigns are explicitly promoting the notion that ordinary (non- betting) fans are not really involved in the game if they are not putting their money on the line. This sort of encouragement is a disgrace and sends a terrible message to young impressionable adolescents questioning their commitment to a team. Of particular concern is: 1 Productivity Commission (2010) 2 Productivity Commission (2010)

2 Odds being flashed up on scoreboards at games Odds being quoted and promoted by commentators during and after games on television and radio. Odds being telecast on Friday news bulletins Odds being promoted to help with tipping on online sport tipping sites and sporting variety programs. AFL clubs promoting their own brand betting agencies. Online Gambling On 27 May 2011, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Select Council on Gambling Reform announced that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy would undertake a review of the Interactive Gambling Act The final report on the review has been released and is available at The majority of recommendations made in the Report are welcome although concern remains regarding expansion of online gambling opportunities in Australia. The key risks in further liberalising online gambling are: a) There will be a net increase in problem gambling and associated harms, primarily through an accelerated increase in the number of people gambling online. There is next to no evidence the available consumer protection measures online will be effective in reducing problem gambling, and those currently promoted by the online gambling industry and its allies are primarily a public relations screen to justify governments allowing a freer expansion of online gambling businesses. Any measures implemented by one provider can be easily circumvented by the gambler simply moving to another site, with over 2,000 to choose from. There are currently no measures that extend across a significant number of online gambling provider sites, and none that would apply across all providers. It is extremely disappointing the Interim Report has misrepresented the analysis of the Productivity Commission on this point. b) Tax avoidance/evasion will remain very easy for many online gambling providers located in secrecy jurisdictions. This is highly unlikely to be changed by allowing Australian online companies to be established to compete with those located in secrecy jurisdictions. Productivity Commission Report The Productivity Commission provided a report on Gambling to the Australian Government on 26 February The Government publicly released the report on 23 June The key points released were: Total recorded expenditure (losses) in Australia reached just over $19 billion in , or an average of $1500 per adult who gambled. Most policy interest centers on people playing regularly on the 'pokies'. Around Australians (4 per cent of the adult population) play at least weekly. The significant social cost of problem gambling estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year means that even policy measures with modest efficacy in reducing harm will often be worthwhile.

3 Recreational gamblers typically play at low intensity. But if machines are played at high intensity, it is easy to lose $1500 or more in an hour. 3 The key recommendations of the report were: A more coherent and effective policy approach is needed, with targeted policies that can effectively address the high rate of problems experienced by those playing gaming machines regularly. The amount of cash that players can feed into machines at any one time should be limited to $20 (currently up to $10 000). There are strong grounds to lower the bet limit to around $1 per 'button push', instead of the current $5-10. Shutdown periods for gaming in hotels and clubs are too brief and mostly occur at the wrong times. They should commence earlier and be of longer duration. There should be a progressive move over the next six years to full 'pre- commitment' systems that allow players to set binding limits on their losses. Problem gambling counselling services have worked well overall. But there is a need for enhanced training and better service coordination. 4 Understanding the Effects of Problem Gambling The current nationally accepted definition of problem gambling can broadly be defined as a disorder characterised by difficulties in limiting money or time spent on gambling which leads to adverse consequences for the gambler, others, or from the community. 5 There is much evidence and research in Australia to suggest that excessive gambling, especially on gaming machines, has led to considerable social problems. Some of the negative impacts from gambling problems include: financial hardship loss of housing bankruptcy mistrust lying; and arguments related to gambling 6 ; Relationship breakdown leading to divorce and significant domestic violence is a major concern with 13% of people in counselling for problem gambling (or one in eight) reporting domestic or other violent incidents related to their gambling 7. Suicide is also a major problem linked to problem gambling, but due to the sensitive nature there is not much recorded evidence. Blaszczynski and Farrell documented 44 examples of gambling related suicides in Victoria occurring between 1990 and 1997, in which the State Coroner identified the presence of a presumed gambling problem. Most were male, with an 3 Productivity Commission (2010) 4 Productivity Commission (2010) 5 Gambling Research Australia (2005) 6 Productivity Commission (1999) 7 Productivity Commission, (1999)

4 average median age of 40 years, unemployed, and from a lower socioeconomic background. 8 A report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Justice, released in October 2010 showed a strong positive correlation between gambling and crime. It found that gambling is actually second only to drug offences as a predictor of crime within a local area. Gaming expenditure per capita is significantly positively associated with nearly every type of crime in all years of the analysis, with research showing that up to 70 per cent of problem gamblers may commit offences. 9 Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce A National Churches Gambling Taskforce was created to support reforms at a national level, led by Tim Costello. Federal independents Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie have also provided strong leadership on this issue and have campaigned long and hard for legislative reform in line with the independent productivity commission report. Andrew Wilkie had a much publicised agreement with Prime Minister Gillard to support her minority government in return for passing legislation to limit the harm of pokies. The legislation that was eventually passed was a watered down version from the original Wilkie- Gillard agreement. The Coalition government in 2014 repealed the legislation which has led to the legislative responsibility for Pokies in particular being placed firmly back with the States and not much hope for any further reforms at a national level. The focus of the Australian Churched Gambling Taskforce will remain with issues that have federal jurisdiction such as broadcast gambling advertising and online betting. 8 Blaszczynski, A., and Farrell, E.(1998) 9 Wheeler, S., et al (2010)

5 References Blaszczynski A and Farrell E (1998) A case series of 44 completed gambling- related suicides. Journal of Gambling Studies 14, Doughney, J. (2002), Socioeconomic banditry: poker machines and income redistribution in Victoria, T. Eardley and B. Bradbury, eds, Competing Visions: Refereed Proceedings of the National Social Policy Conference 2001, SPRC Report 1/02, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Gambling Research Australia (2005), Problem Gambling and Harm: Towards a National Definition, The South Australian Centre for Economic Studies and Department of Psychology, University of Adelaide Hare, S. (2008). A Study of Gambling in Victoria: problem gambling from a public health perspective, prepared by Schottler Consulting for Department of Justice. Henderson, B., (2009) Literature Review, Gamblers Help Bethany, G21 Health & Wellbeing Pillar. Productivity Commission (1999), Australia s Gambling Industries, Report No. 10, Canberra. Productivity Commission (2010), Gambling, Report No. 50, Canberra Ste- Maria, C., Gupta., R & Derevensky,. J. (2006). Anxiety and Social Stress Related to Adolescent Gambling Behaviour and Substance Use, Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, 15 (4), Wheeler, S., et al (2010) The Relationship Between Crime and gaming Expenditure in Victoria, Centre for regulation and Market Analysis, School of Commerce, University of South Australia. Published by the Department of Justice, Victoria Uniting Church VicTas (2010) Victorian Election: Gambling Reform Information Paper, Commission for Mission

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