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Welcome to our
April
NEWSLETTER

Check out all our latest updates

04/2024

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Carol Bennett

Chief Executive Officer

Message from the CEO

The past week was a reminder of just how bizarre the narrative around gambling and its role in Australian culture can be when it comes to what, and even whether, gambling harm is experienced let alone the solutions to address it. The calling into question of extensive evidence and recommendations put forward by numerous inquiries and reviews from Royal Commissions and organisations such as the NSW Crime Commission was surreal.  

In giving evidence to the ACT Inquiry into Cashless Gambling on 27 March 2024, Tim and I called for cashless gambling including harm reduction features - reforms that would address the escalating losses in a small jurisdiction of less than 500,000 people. Let's hope for the sake of Canberrans that common sense will prevail rather than the fantasy world inhabited by gambling industry lobbyists who seem to deny any harms or any evidence that runs counter to them increasing their profits (even in their not-for-profit clubs).  

On the national front, it was good to see Jodie Belyea, the newly elected member for Dunkley in the seat previously held by the late Peta Murphy, honouring Peta in her first speech where she promised to remain an advocate for Peta’s work on gambling reform.  And another champion for gambling reform, Greens senator Janet Rice also gave her valedictory speech in parliament in the same week.  We wish them both well in their ongoing endeavours.

Tasmanians went to the polls last month and for the Alliance and many other gambling reform groups, the commitment to introduction of the cashless gambling card with binding and default limits continues to be the focus. As the first state to introduce this measure, the implications for national reform are critical. We will continue to advocate strongly for the new minority Liberal government to follow through on this landmark reform.  

This edition of enews covers some important issues in gambling reform including:

  • The NT Government rushing through watered down legislation

  • The decision to grant Crown Casino its license

  • Urgent gambling reform needed in ACT

  • NSW Government refusing to release results of its cashless card trial

  • Sweeping new reforms to Queensland Casinos 

  • Alliance Pre-Budget submission calling for investment in gambling reform

  • Government's lobbyist controls toothless and opaque

On the councils and supporters front we welcome the City of Wangaratta as a Leadership Council! It's good to see a focus on reducing gambling harm in so many regional areas who experience disproportionate gambling losses and harms.  

And with the footy season kicking off in March, it was a reminder of just how saturated we are in gambling ads. Just minutes after the first bounce in a round one AFL game, families watching on free-to-air television were exposed to more than 70 gambling ads – and all before 8pm! Action on gambling ads is well overdue and we need to see the federal government step up to the challenge of a ban on sports gambling advertising. You can help us to end gambling harm by making a regular donation to support our End Gambling Ads Campaign.

Join us to end gambling harm by making a regular donation of just $10 a month to support our End Gambling Ads Campaign

Your donation makes a vital contribution towards gambling reform in Australia. We need the ongoing backing of generous supporters, funders and partners to continue advocating for policies that reduce gambling harm.

 

We are at a critical time as the Federal Government considers the online inquiry report and we need to continue to make the voice of the community heard clearly in Canberra.

 

Every little bit helps – we will never match the industry resources but as our Chief Advocate Tim Costello says, “We punch above our weight!”

 

Donate to help us to continue building momentum in all jurisdictions across Australia.

 

Thank you for your support.

If you wish to make a donation via bank transfer

Alliance For Gambling Reform Inc

Please contact info@agr.org.au for bank details.

NT Government rushes through watered down legislation

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The Northern Territory Government last month rushed through weak, watered down regulations to sidestep the Federal Government’s expected response to a scathing report into online gambling.

The Racing and Wagering Act 2024 will replace the old commission with a joint Northern Territory Racing and Wagering Commission, which will deal with monitoring complaints, disputes, and disciplinary matters of licensed companies.

The Alliance has supported the Murphy report into online gambling’s recommendation for a national regulator calling on the Federal Government to step in and resolve the Northern Territory Government’s poor regulation of online gambling advertising.  The Northern Territory has proven time and again that it is not equipped to regulate the industry. 

“In drafting its laws, the NT Government consulted 28 gambling companies and just one harm-minimisation organisation, resulting in proposed $1.7m penalties being slashed to $440,000.” said Alliance CEO, Carol Bennett.

 

“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.  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” said Ms Bennett, Alliance CEO.


>>>Read more

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Last chance for Crown Casino!

The Victorian Government last week found Crown Casino suitable to hold a licence after significant remediation and fines in the hundreds of millions.

 

This decision reflects that the regulator believes this response has brought Crown into line and has restored faith to the level where they can continue to hold their licence. “But make no mistake they are on notice should there be any further breach of the regulations” said Alliance CEO, Carol Bennett.

 

The Alliance believes that while Crown’s transformation plan has been a step forward, the entire gambling sector should be subject to tougher rules, such as cashless gambling with harm reduction features including binding and default limits.

Chief Advocate Tim Costello does a media conference on the Crown decision.

The Alliance now wants to see the improved standards for Crown applied to all pubs and clubs in Victoria to prevent the problems found at Crown shifting out into the community.  We have the evidence from Crown that mandatory pre-commitment carded gambling is possible for venues to implement, now the Victorian Government must act on the escalating gambling harm happening across Victoria, in suburbs and country towns.

 

"All of Victoria deserves the same protection from gambling harm as patrons at Crown" said Alliance CEO, Carol Bennett.

 

You can read the Alliance media release here.

 

>>>Read more

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Urgent gambling reform needed in the ACT

In response to death by suicide of a Canberran man who had experienced gambling harm, the ACT Government has embarked on a four-week ‘market sounding’ to gather information about a potential central monitoring system (CMS), which could connect all Territory poker machines to monitor their operation.

It could also allow for a consistent rollout of harm reduction initiatives such as bet and load-up limits, which are some of the gambling-related reforms identified in the current Parliamentary and Governing Agreement (PAGA).

Currently, the ACT is the only state or territory without linked poker

machines making its regulation one of the weakest of any Australian state or territory.  The Alliance supports a CMS and believes it would be an important step as it could provide information about who is gambling, when and how much, and it can flag those at risk of gambling harm.  However, we believe that the ACT Government could also be going much further. 

“There are various measures the government could be taking, such as reduced opening hours, removing signage from poker machine venues, slower spin rates etc, but ultimately, the most effective measure will be a cashless gambling card with binding and default limits that enables every individual to be identified,” Carol Bennett, Alliance CEO said. 

The Alliance also provided evidence last week to the ACT Inquiry into Cashless Gambling.  You can view the video of Alliance CEO, Carol Bennett and Chief Advocate, Tim Costello giving evidence at the Inquiry here, and you can read our recent media release here.


>>>Read more

 

NSW Government refuses to release results of cashless card trial

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The NSW government is refusing to release the results of an Australian-first cashless gambling trial, leading gambling reform advocates to describe the move as protecting vested interests.

An eight-month trial at Wests Newcastle was launched in October 2022 and rolled out across 144 poker machines with 260 players participating.

 

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, Reverend Tim Costello said: “Sadly, the government not releasing it and us having no visibility does not give us any confidence to back this trial.  It’s as useless as saying brakes in a car are voluntary. It should have always been a trial where it was mandatory and compulsory to actually use the harm-minimisation features on the cashless card.

 

It makes us all suspicious that actually the industry is being protected. There is no transparency”.

 

>>>Read more

Sweeping reforms to Queensland casinos

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The Queensland Parliament has passed new laws requiring casinos to introduce specific measures to reduce gambling harm and combat money laundering, as recommended by the Gotterson Review in 2022.

Under the legislation casinos will be required to:

  • implement mandatory carded play for certain games and activities, with restrictions on the use of cash, as well as mandatory pre-commitment, with time limits and enforced player breaks.

  • issue player cards and collect information relating to play and provide certain de-identified data to the regulator.

  • comply with an enforceable code of conduct to be defined in a regulation.

  • pay a supervision levy to the government to cover the costs of casino regulation and to fund harm minimisation programs.

  • take steps to exclude people who are banned from interstate casinos by an interstate police commissioner.

 

There will also be a limit on the amount that can be drawn over 24 hours, bringing Queensland into line with New South Wales and Victoria.

Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said gambling limits were a game changer.  "Every study shows that the person who gets in trouble with gambling, if they set their limits, money and time before they're in front of that mesmerising machine, actually set much more sensible limits," he said.
 

>>>Read more

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Alliance calls for investment in gambling reform

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The Federal Government is investing $737 million to fund various measures to protect Australians against the harm caused by tobacco and vaping products, and we believe that the same level of expenditure should be urgently committed to gambling harm.

In our pre-budget submission, the Alliance called on the Federal Government to invest about $63 million on gambling reform, with another $30 million to support programs and training for health practitioners to reduce the impact that gambling is having on the community.

We also called on the Federal Government to fund and implement all 31 recommendations from the Murphy report into online gambling and invest in an independent peak body to reduce gambling harm.

We believe it is crucial that the 2024-25 Federal Budget has a significant investment in preventing and reducing gambling harm in Australia.

Australians deserve to be protected against gambling harm and as a nation we want to see losses and harm decrease - we no longer want the title of the world’s biggest gambling losers. 
 

>>>Read more

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Government's lobbyist controls are toothless and opaque

The Alliance is concerned about the evidence of the serious and unique risk posed by disproportionate lobbying activity from the gambling industry. 

Documents obtained through freedom of information have shown the gambling industry has unleashed a closed-door blitz of high-pressured lobbying to debunk the reasonable and impactful reforms proposed by the Federal Parliamentary Committee into the harm of online gambling currently being considered by the Federal Government.

Jointly released by the Alliance and Transparency International Australia late last year, an analysis by Melbourne University shows the gambling industry hires the most lobbying firms nationally of any other harmful product industry. 

The Alliance’s recent submission to the Inquiry into Access to Australian Parliament House by Lobbyists outlined concerns about powerful vested interests from the gambling industry and their allies having growing and potentially insidious influence in the corridors of government.

The lack of adequate regulation and transparency, as currently seen in relation to access to Australian Parliament House (and federal government generally) by lobbyists, carries risks of secrecy, unfair access and undue influence as well as corruption. 


>>>Read more 
 

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Councils
and 

Supporters 

Over the last month, the Alliance has had the opportunity to meet with the City of Greater Geelong to discuss their work on a new gambling policy, as well as concerning increases in losses around the municipality. 
 
We continued our discussions with members of the Macedon Ranges community, who are very concerned regarding the prospect of 50 machines at the Romsey Hotel.  The Macedon Ranges Shire Council has just released a survey for its residents on the application, which they will use as evidence when they submit their position to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission 
(VGCCC). 

Macedon Ranges Shire Council has also been updating its gambling harm policy, with feedback on the draft policy now closed. This is a lot of work on gambling in a very short amount of time for a small council, but we know they have a lot of support from the community, and we all have our fingers crossed this will get the outcome we are hoping for. We will be writing a very strong submission against this application and the emerging trend for venue applications in regional locations. 
 
In Bendigo, an application for the Huntly Hotel received planning approval and will now progress to the Commission for a decision on whether the venue is suitable for poker machines. We will be making a submission and are keen to hear from members of the community in Bendigo who are concerned about the possibility of 40 machines in a growing community.  It also abuts a block of land that has a planning permit for a school. The Alliance has met with the Council to discuss this application and we look forward to supporting the Council in the future. 
 
The Alliance has made a submission regarding the Clocks on Flinders application for an additional 5 machines. We have already learned that this application was approved by the VGCCC, which is disappointing given the ever-increasing losses in the City of Melbourne. 
 
We were relieved to see that an extension of hours for the Braybrook Hotel in the City of Maribyrnong was withdrawn, and we congratulate Maribyrnong, Brimbank and Moonee Valley councils on their strong and swift responses on behalf of their communities that we believe influenced this outcome. 
 
The Alliance wishes to thank the Rural City of Wangaratta for considering our submission and inviting us to present to the Council in February. And we’re pleased to report that not only did the Council pass a policy recently, but they also made a firm commitment to join the Alliance! We are excited to welcome them to our growing network of leadership councils, and we are particularly pleased to welcome another regional council. We look forward to working with the City of Wangaratta to reduce gambling harm.

 

Over the past month, we have met with many of our leadership councils, and have meetings scheduled with many others in the next month.  As always, we are keen to support local councils in whatever way they need – every council is different – but the commitment to work together to reduce harm from gambling is the same. 

Share your
Voice

We invite you to share your personal experiences of gambling harm in Australia. Whether you've faced this challenge yourself or witnessed the struggles of someone close to you, your story has the power to inspire change and improve awareness.

 

We know that all communities are impacted by gambling, but the true impact is often hidden. Real stories from real people who’ve experienced gambling harm are a powerful vehicle for influencing social change. Your lived experience offers valuable insight into the consequences of gambling for our whole community. Your story will help us to advocate for change that benefits everyone.

 

You can remain anonymous if you prefer. Nothing will be shared or published without your consent.

 

Please write your story to us via Facebook or email us at info@agr.org.au

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Media Releases

In The News

Labor urged to outlaw betting ‘rewards’ luring Australians into gambling

The Guardian

9 July 2024

The Alliance for Gambling Reform blamed weak advertising and consumer protection laws for the promotions it says are carefully designed to make customers believe they are placing “safer” bets and that a win is more likely.

A third of Australian bets found to be placed by problem gamblers amid warning of ‘predatory’ industry

The Guardian

27 June 2024

Roy Morgan polling of 16,000 Australians found 15.5% had bet on sport in the 12 months to March. It also revealed problem gamblers made up almost 20% of some sports betting companies’ customer base. The results were released on Tuesday by the Alliance for Gambling Reform to mark the first anniversary of a major parliamentary report calling for a ban on online gambling ads and making other recommendations. The group’s Interim CEO, Martin Thomas said: “These are huge numbers and they highlight how a predatory online gambling industry is ensnaring a whole new generation into gambling.

‘Wasted opportunity’: No recommendation on cashless gaming in ACT inquiry report

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3 July 2024

Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said there is no need for a trial.

“The evidence is overwhelming that cashless gaming works,” Reverend Costello said.

“The 1999 Productivity Commission report recommended the introduction of mandatory cashless cards.

“Canberra always boasts about how progressive it is, but it’s still dragging its feet for 25 years on cashless gaming.

“ACT and NSW Labor have $120 million of assets in pokies clubs. It’s the most obvious and horrible conflict.”

A third of Australian bets found to be placed by problem gamblers amid warning of ‘predatory’ industry

The Guardian

25 June 2024

The polling implied 3.26 million Australians had made a sports wager in the year to March – more than double the 7% found to have bet between April 2019 and March 2020.

The results were released on Tuesday by the Alliance for Gambling Reform to mark the first anniversary of a major parliamentary report calling for a ban on online gambling ads and making other recommendations.

Queensland LNP promises to increase pokies cap for clubs with more than two premises

ABC News

2 July 2024

n the 2022-23 financial year, Queenslanders lost more than more than $5 billion to gambling — of which about $3.2 billion was lost through poker machines.

Alliance for Gambling Reform interim chief executive Martin Thomas said his organisation was opposed to the proposal to increase the cap on gaming machines at clubs with multiple sites.

1 In 3 Bets Placed by Aussies Last Year Were Made By Problem Gamblers, Grim New Data Shows

Pedestrian TV

25 June 2024

The findings were released by Alliance for Gambling Reform and come on the one-year anniversary of a parliamentary report which called for stronger regulations around online gambling advertising, among other recommendations. Martin Thomas, the Interim CEO of Alliance for Gambling Reform, described the numbers in the research as “huge”, saying they highlight a “predatory online gambling industry” that is “ensnaring a whole new generation into gambling.” Thomas pointed to the “inescapable torrent” gambling ads as having a “normalising” effect on betting, and said advertising is “grooming children and young people to gamble”.

Keep up to date with the latest news in Gambling Reform, and be part of the Conversation on Facebook|Twitter| LinkedIn

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