Banning gambling political donations not enough to curb ‘unfair’ and ‘privileged’ access to government ministers
1 Mar 2023
Banning political donations from the gambling industry is not enough to close loopholes that allow gambling executives ‘unfair’ and ‘privileged’ access to ministers who regulate the sector, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
New analysis of MPs interests undertaken by Open Politics has revealed a raft of federal MPs with responsibility for regulating the gambling industry received VIP tickets to sporting and charity events . And the Open Politics listing is probably just the tip of a much larger iceberg.
This new analysis follows the recent revelations that Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, received almost $19,000 in donations and in-kind support from Sportsbet in the lead up to the last Federal election.
“As well as the donations, Minister Rowland also received a raft of free tickets to sporting events from Tabcorp and tickets to the show Hamilton paid for by the Star Entertainment Group during her time as Shadow and Minister for Communications,” the chief executive of the Alliance, Carol Bennett, said.
“We know Minister Rowland complied with all her disclosure obligations, and she is certainly not alone in receiving benefits from gambling companies, but this example highlights the potential conflict of interests.”
“The reality is that the gambling industry buys privileged access to ministers who are responsible for regulating many aspects of their industry. Gambling interests have access that groups attempting to reduce the harms caused by gambling do not get, nor do people with lived experience of the devastation that gambling can cause.”
Ms Bennett said there must be a ban on political donations but there must also be bans on other forms of providing inducements and favours to politicians and their families that could influence the behaviour of a minister, politician or bureaucrat.
Ms Bennett said, “Ministers say they are not swayed by political donations, but the proof is in the pudding. The gambling industry are actively involved in writing the regulations they want to govern their industry while health groups and experts on gambling harm reduction, and those with a lived experience of gambling harm, are very rarely consulted.”
The Open Politics analysis shows invitations by the gambling lobby that were accepted by relevant ministers and shadow ministers of both major parties include:
As Shadow Communications Minister, Rowland received:
Eight tickets (on four occasions) and hospitality for various racing events from Tabcorp
Gifts from Star Entertainment Group including tickets to Hamilton and hospitality from The Star for herself and three others
Tickets and hospitality to attend the NRL State of Origin on 24 June 2018, gifted by Tabcorp
As Minister for Communications she accepted:
Five tickets to Australia vs the UK in Rugby by Tabcorp plus hospitality
Five tickets to the Melbourne Racing carnival by Tabcorp plus hospitality
Anne Ruston in her time as Families and Social Services Minister accepted:
Tickets to the Australian Men’s tennis Semi Final on 28 January 2022 from Sportsbet
Dan Tehan while he was Minister for Social Services (20 Dec 17 -28 August 2018):
Attended as a guest of CrownBet a fundraiser event on 3 August 2018 called ‘The Million Dollar Lunch’ to support Children’s Cancer Foundation
Paul Fletcher while Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts
Attended the Melbourne 2019 at the invitation of Tabcorp and Network Ten
Andrew Bragg while chairing the 2021 Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee (2 September 2021 to 25 July 2022) on the Prohibition of Credit Card Use Bill 2020 (Interactive Gambling Act)
During the time he was the chair of this committee he accepted no invitations
Previous to his time on the committee he accepted
■ Tickets from Tabcorp with hospitality at Flemington Racecourse
■ In kind donations from the Australian Hotels Association
Carol Bennett is available for interview
Sean Johnson, Founder, Open Politics is also available for interview on 0415 391 182
Media contact: Martin Thomas – 0477 340 704