Betting Companies in Panic as Government Mulls Complete Ban on Online Gambling Marketing

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In a world where fortunes are made and lost with a simple click, the looming possibility of a government-enforced blackout on online gambling marketing sends shockwaves through the corridors of power, leaving betting companies teetering on the edge of a high-stakes precipice.

The federal government may convene meetings with broadcasters and wagering companies to expedite a process to address concerns within the wagering sector.

Following a parliamentary inquiry, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese branded online gambling advertising during live sports as “reprehensible” and proposed a comprehensive ban on television ads, sponsorship, and promotion.

The parliamentary inquiry, headed by Labor MP Peta Murphy, put forth 31 recommendations, including a ban on advertising valued at over $300 million last year. Other suggestions involve:

  • The appointment of a federal minister dedicated to curbing online gambling harm.
  • The establishment of a national regulator.
  • Changing behavioural algorithm in gambling apps.

Backlash Erupts as Recommendations Threaten $6 Billion Wagering Sector

Mr Albanese intended to consider the recommendations, saying, “I find it pretty reprehensible that you’re watching a footy game, and suddenly there’s an ad for gambling.”

He further emphasised the need for comprehensive action across online and social media platforms, stating that Communications Minister Michelle Rowland seeks to respond accordingly to prevent the issue from resurfacing elsewhere.

Australia’s $6 billion wagering sector, joined by free-to-air broadcasters and sporting bodies, vehemently opposed the perceived heavy-handed and ineffective recommendations.

The recommendation receiving the most backlash proposes a three-year phase-out of all online gambling advertising. However, this ban does not encompass advertisements for physical shop premises (Tabcorp currently holds exclusive wagering licenses in NSW and Victoria).

“Total advertising ban should be phased in to allow major sports and broadcasters ample time to find alternative advertisers and sponsors,” suggested Ms Murphy. 

Bookmakers Divided on Gambling Ad Limits While Broadcasters Fear the Impact of Comprehensive Ban

Responsible Wagering Australia, representing bookmakers such as bet365, Betfair, Entain, Sportsbet, and PointsBet, advocated for limiting the number of ads, believing that blanket bans, even if implemented gradually, are not the optimal solution.

Sportsbet’s CEO, Barni Evans, supported specific recommendations, including prohibiting commissions and using intervention tools. However, he deemed an outright advertising ban excessive, proposing a significant reduction to address community concerns while supporting sports and media.

Tabcorp, the only major wagering company welcoming the advertising proposal, publicly expressed its support during the inquiry. Tabcorp’s CEO, Adam Rytenskild, stressed the importance of the inquiry for the industry’s sustainability and advocated for equal regulatory adherence among wagering operators.

In response to concerns raised by media and sports organisations, Free TV, a lobby group representing major broadcasters, criticised the comprehensive ban as detrimental to the advertising market and potentially leading to reduced funding for Australian content.

Bipartisan Committee’s Recommendations Await Swift Response

Both NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and an AFL spokesperson acknowledged the significance of the inquiry. They expressed willingness to collaborate with the government to address concerns and mitigate potential impacts on their respective sports.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth stated their commitment to reviewing all 31 recommendations and determining the next course of action. Sources close to the process indicate that the government aims to respond expeditiously, potentially before the end of the year.

The nine-person bipartisan committee unanimously supported the 31 recommendations. If adopted, companies like Sportsbet, Tabcorp, and Entain would be subject to a “harm reduction levy,” required to share de-identified customer data for monitoring at-risk groups, and obligated to block offshore operators.

Although Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s call for a ban on gambling advertising during sports broadcasts faced opposition from media executives, it garnered strong public support. 

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