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Message from the CEO
Chief Executive Officer
What an amazing year 2022 has been for the Alliance for Gambling Reform!
The Alliance was pleased to be one of the first witnesses called to give evidence (following our submission) to the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee national Inquiry into online gambling and its impact on those experiencing gambling harm in early December.
This is the first national inquiry looking specifically at gambling related harm and we are optimistic about the possibility of the federal government acting to address the urgent need for a co-ordinated national approach in this area. We are hoping to see some serious discussions about restrictions on inducements, promotions and sponsorships, together with a ban or at least more meaningful limits on sports gambling advertising!
Drafting the Annual Report has given us all a chance to reflect on how much we have achieved this year, how much public and media focus there has been on gambling, and the increasing level of activity by all levels of government. The Alliance has been involved in Royal Commissions into Crown and inquiries into Star Casinos and SkyCity, provided input to a number of seminal reviews, campaigned for reforms in the federal as well as two state election campaigns, worked with politicians and decision makers from across the political spectrum and at all levels of government and been involved in promoting an unprecedented level of public discourse in various media and other forums on key reform issues. We have also amplified the brave voices of those with lived experience.
We have been doing the hard yards, and it finally feels as though we are now moving forwards towards better gambling policies in Australia.
The Alliance has worked to hone our strategic focus and consolidate our sustainability while maintaining our independence and the quality of our work. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Board led by Chair, Sharon Dickson, for their stewardship of the organisation through a fast-paced year.
Our team has seen some change this year, but as we head towards 2023, I am pleased to say we have a dedicated, skilled and effective team which will be further strengthened when our new Voices Manager, Kate Seselja joins the team in 2023.
A big shout out to Tim Costello who has worked tirelessly to present a considered and affable public face for our organisation, and our amazing staff team who are all dedicated to achieving our purpose of reducing gambling harm in our community.
Of course, the Alliance would not be able to do what we do without our leadership councils who have supported us over the last few years (and welcome to our new councils, Moonee Valley and Whittlesea!) as well as our 60 plus partners and foundations and funders. A huge thank you!!
After a big 2022, we could all do with a few deep breaths before we resume our efforts to advance the cause of gambling reform in 2023. Rest assured the Alliance will continue working hard to reduce gambling harm and create a fairer Australia where our kids can grow up without being bombarded by advertising and inducements to gamble. We don’t think we are asking for too much!
In whatever way you are spending the Christmas period, may it be peaceful and enjoyable.
Thank you for your support of the Alliance and best wishes for the festive season.
Alliance for Gambling Reform CEO
Federal Inquiry into Online Gambling
Read our submission by clicking on image above.
After making a Submission to the Federal Inquiry into Online Gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm, the Alliance were invited to give evidence to the Committee on Monday 5 December.
The Alliance was represented by our CEO Ms Carol Bennett, Chief Advocate Rev Tim Costello and a number of lived experience advocates including our own Anna Bardsley, Voices for Gambling Reform Co-ordinator, who shared their personal experience of gambling harm.
In a supplementary report produced by the Alliance for the Inquiry, and drawing on the industry's own figures, we highlighted that more than 430,000 Australian children are likely to be gambling online with almost 40,000 categorised as “risky gamblers” and 14,400 children categorised as “problem gamblers” (note this term a definition adopted by the UK Gambling Commission, not the Alliance).
It also shows that Australians bet 20% more online than any other nation in the world, being the highest per capita and 3rd largest in market share of online gambling.
In his evidence to the Committee, Chief Advocate Rev Costello stated “We have little national regulation on gambling and at state level we have Ministers for Gambling. The implications are that online gaming operators are able to groom our kids with impunity and the implications will be horrific and lifelong”.
In our submission, the Alliance outlines significant reforms to reduce gambling harm in 19 recommendations across 7 areas including banning the broadcast of gambling advertisements and introducing national gambling regulation and a national regulator.
Our supplementary report is available here.
The transcript of the hearing is available at www.agr.org.au.
The Voices Anna Bardsley also provided a submission to the Inquiry which can be found here.
There are many stories of harm caused by online gambling, including the experience of Gavin Fineff - you can read his story here. A reminder to support Gavin’s efforts by signing our petition to help make gambling companies accountable: www.agr.org.au/onlinegamblingreform.
Year in Review
The Alliance’s 2022 Annual Report will be emailed to our supporters shortly.
Here’s a snapshot of what to expect:
In a year that heralded a significant shift in community understanding and concern about gambling harm, we:
Took part in Royal Commissions into Crown Casino in Melbourne and Perth as well as inquiries into both Star Sydney and Queensland and provided a submission to the Inquiry into SkyCity Adelaide.
We saw record fines to casinos for non-compliance (increasing from $1 million to $100 million).
Submitted to the NSW Crime Commission and received numerous mentions in the report which highlighted widespread money laundering, fraud, crime and other harms related to gambling across NSW in pubs and clubs in local communities.
Advocated to make gambling harm a NSW State election issue.
Provided powerful and compelling evidence to all of the above-mentioned inquiries and Royal Commissions into Crown and Star Queensland and Sydney via our voices.
Saw significant bipartisan commitment to harm reduction measures including a mandatory pre-commitment, cashless card system in Tasmania and other states including NSW now actively considering it.
Led the charge for improved data collection and improved self-exclusion systems.
Saw the implementation of special, independent managers (in Vic and Qld) keeping abreast of all elements of each casino reforms.
Pushed for regulatory overhaul in many states.
We led successful campaigns, including our Federal Election campaign where we called for:
A ban on sports gambling advertising across all broadcast platforms.
Closing loopholes that allow gambling using credit cards.
Creating a national casino regulator and online gambling ombudsman.
Stopping political donations from the gambling industry.
We worked with politicians across the political spectrum (including the new teal independents) to push for reform at local, state and federal levels.
We made a record number of submissions this year, 15 in total, on topics as diverse as Facial Recognition Technology to defence and veterans suicide.
Alongside all of this, our Media team went into overdrive!
Some of our media highlights:
We authored 30+ press releases.
Had 10 Opinion pieces published.
Did dozens of media interviews.
Our sincere thanks to our funders, partners and supporters for working with us to change the conversation on gambling and its harms.
Chief Advocate Rev Tim Costello with Independent Senator David Pocock, met recently to discuss the importance of gambling reform.
Victoria and NSW Election Overview
The Victorian State election handed a victory to the ALP. Disappointingly though, it was not a victory for gambling reform.
Despite improved casino regulation just days before the election both major parties chose to protect the interests of the gambling industry by pledging not to implement the same harm reduction measures in pubs and clubs.
Our Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello said “the use of mandatory gambling cards across the sector would not just mitigate the harm caused by gambling, it would make poker machines a less viable means for criminals to launder and gamble money."
You can read Tim’s piece in The Age https://www.theage.com.au/.../who-is-victoria-s-biggest.
And in NSW, there was a frenzy of interest following the release of the NSW Crime Commission report last month showing billions in widespread crime, money laundering and fraud not just in the casinos but spreading out to every community in NSW that has a club or pub with poker machines. The level of community outrage was palpable when both major parties initially refused to show leadership on the issue, sidestepping the need for major reforms despite the clear evidence from multiple inquiries of the harms being inflicted on the NSW community.
The imminent signing of an MOU between NSW Clubs and the two major parties created a media storm.
It was Premier Perrotet who showed the fortitude to stare down Clubs NSW and push for a cashless gambling card (as a condition of signing an MOU with Clubs NSW) as recommended by the Crime Commission.
Unfortunately ALP leader, Chris Minns, is maintaining that a voluntary trial would need to occur before he would make a call on the cashless card. You need only to see the results of the recent Resolve poll showing widespread community support for a cashless card and read the opinion columns to see a backlash from the community on this stance with words such as ‘spineless’ and ‘weak’ being leveled at the Shadow Premier.
The independents in NSW remain strong on the need for a cashless card. A group of influential Liberal party ministers (Victor Dominello and Matt Kean among them) have joined with Premier Perrotet to support the measure. The NSW Greens have shown outstanding resolve on gambling reform extending to a policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs in the next decade.
While this issue is still live and details are yet to be provided by the NSW Liberals on features and the timeframe for a cashless card, it is clear that gambling reform has become a key election issue in NSW (the state that is second only to Nevada in losses and harm in the world).
The Alliance will be actively advocating for mandatory pre-commitment and a cashless gambling card to be implemented in NSW as well as other key measures to reduce harm. We will post an update on our NSW election campaign early in 2023.
We will also join our friends at Wesley Mission as well as a large group of NSW and national organisations calling to ‘Put Pokies in their Place’.
You can find out more about what’s happening in NSW here.
Welcome our new councils
Welcome Whittlesea and Moonee Valley City Councils!
This month the Alliance has welcomed both the City of Whittlesea and the City of Moonee Valley to our growing Leadership Councils team.
By joining the Alliance as a Leadership Council, they join other councils leading the way in reducing harm from gambling in their communities. We will provide them with ongoing policy support and information as well as practical gambling harm reduction strategies and activities in their electorates.
You can read more about local Councils taking action here.
Interested to find out more? Contact our Councils and Supporters Coordinator, Rebecca Paterson.
Voices for Gambling Reform Manager
Introducing our new Voices for Gambling Reform Manager: Kate Seselja
We’re so excited to welcome Ms Kate Seselja to our team in 2023 as the Voices for Gambling Reform Manager.
Kate is passionate about removing shame and stigma and driving real change to reduce and prevent gambling harm, and she brings a depth of lived experience.
Kate will work with Anna Bardsley in the Voices team to harness and support our incredible army of volunteers who courageously and generously share their experiences.
Kate recently made her own call to action which you can find on our website.
5 December 2022
28 November 2022
11 November 2022
In The News
Once again it’s been a very busy month in the media with the Federal Inquiry into Online Gambling currently underway, the Victorian State Election held, the cashless gambling card becoming a key election issue in NSW and the Star being taken to court by AUSTRAC.
The Guardian also ran a gambling series that highlighted many important aspects of harm including the interests of the big superannuation funds in investing their members' hard-earned retirement funds in gambling interests.
You can view the articles here:
The Alliance featured heavily in the discussions here.
‘Playing us for years’: how pokies profits have funded tax-deductible spending within Australian clubs
It is part of a scheme that the anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello says is Australia’s most shameless rort.
“When I learned what was going on, I felt really, really angry,” Mitchell says. “Pokies, to put it bluntly, have got people committing suicide. It’s led to divorces. It’s got people on welfare and food bank parcels. And yet, it’s able to present itself as a community benefit. From my point of view, it was totally misleading.”
'Captured' Minns Government not serious about pokies reform, says anti-gambling advocate
Reverend Costello said these figures were “extraordinary” given the small population in the region and criticised the State Government for what he said was a lack of action on the issue.
“[Premier] Minns doesn’t want to reform pokies … Labor has five pokies venues, five in NSW, it’s too lucrative for them. They’re putting the party’s interest way before people’s interest.
Tasmanian pokies losses revealed for 2022-23, gambling reform advocates call for crackdown
The team at Monash measured losses in five states. The AGR said figures for the ACT and the Northern Territory were not available. Poker machines are not allowed in pubs and clubs in Western Australia.
“Australians already lose more to poker machines per capita than any other country in the world [and] these staggering new loss figures show an industry that is out of control. These figures don’t even count poker machine losses in our casinos,” AGR CEO Carol Bennett said.
Stakeholders call for club and poker machine reforms in ACT
Canberrans lost more than $190 million on electric gaming machines in the nine months to March – a 13.8 per cent increase since 2018-19 – while residents of five other states lost $14.5 billion last financial year, according to new figures published by the Alliance for Gambling Reform today.
Carol Bennett, the Alliance’s CEO, urged the ACT Government to reduce gambling harm.
“We have significant losses in the ACT, when you consider that we’re in the cost-of-living crisis at the moment, and that money could be really well spent in the economy elsewhere,” Ms Bennett said. “Those losses are causing enormous harm to individuals, to families, to workplaces, to our community.”
You want money laundering with that? Minns’ pokie policy jumps the shark
There are times in public policy when even the most practised suppression of the ethical gag reflex is tested to its outer limits. On Tuesday, the ethical stench surrounding the NSW Minns government’s position on poker machines had many reaching for the Buscopan Forte to cope with the nausea.
“Gambling costs aren’t just measured in dollars; there are also family impacts including time away from loved ones, impacts on physical and mental health, and community impacts,” lamented David Harris, the NSW minister for gaming and racing.
How do we prevent young people from gambling?
A Conversation Hour not to be missed - "How do we stop young people gambling?' Listen to Alliance CEO Carol Bennett alongside a number of brilliant guest speakers and community members calling in to highlight the huge impact gambling online is having on young people.
NSW urged to end ‘shameless rort’ giving clubs a tax break for spending pokies revenue
The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate, Tim Costello, said the state government needed to step in to take funding decisions away from clubs.
“I have said for a decade, this is the most shameless rort in Australia,” Costello said.
“The New South Wales government need to actually take this seriously and say: ‘This isn’t clubs’ money, this is New South Wales government money and we’re going to administer the scheme. You pay us. You are not branding it as your generosity.’”
Poker machine losses in pubs and clubs hit $14.5bn
The Weekend Australia
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief executive Carol Bennett said the figures were shocking and some states were dragging their heels on reforms to control problem gambling.
“Australians already lose more to poker machines per capita than any other country in the world and these staggering new loss figures show an industry that is out of control,” Ms Bennett said. “And these figures don’t even count poker machine losses in our casinos.”
Ms Bennett said the extent of poker machine losses were “causing enormous damage in our communities, way beyond financial loss.”
TOP SOCIAL STORIES
"More than 430,000 Australian children are likely to be gambling online with almost 40,000 categorised as risky gamblers", the CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Carol Bennett, said. Read our latest media release.
“Most people were not offended by the tagline, gamble responsibly…But if people understood the deliberate irresponsibility of the industry, the evidence that through its casinos and poker machines in pubs and clubs it has facilitated organised crime, fraud and money laundering involving billions of dollars - they would think differently.” AGR Chief Advocate Tim Costello writes in The Canberra Times. Read more here.
"Everyone I speak to is fed up with being bombarded by gambling ads on our screens. Australia is a virtually unregulated, Wild West for foreign-owned online sports gambling agencies that are registered in the Northern Territory and pay minimal tax." More with AGR Chief Advocate Tim Costello. 'On pokies, it seems NSW Labor stands for social injustice'.
Major parties in Vic have reassured the gambling industry there will be no policy changes to poker machines, meaning no reforms aimed at reducing harm and protecting communities. Victorian Greens and independents platforms are stronger on gambling reform. Read more here.
"Accused sex slave traders, a murderer for hire, loan sharks and drug traffickers were allowed to gamble billions of dollars at Star Entertainment for years despite details of their crimes being publicly available." Read more here. [paywall]
"This says that Star really couldn't care less about the regulations and the rules, all they care about is their profits" said AGR's CEO Carol Bennett. https://youtu.be/NdVhACOBuH0
Financial watchdog Austrac has alleged that Star casino has been breaking anti-money laundering laws. "Star Entertainment faces more civil penalties for allegedly allowing customers to move cash through risky back channels and continuing business with “higher-risk customers” in breach of federal anti-money laundering laws." Read more here.
the Alliance for Gambling Reform
As you can see, we have achieved so much this year, and we couldn’t have done it without your support.
We are raising money to continue our work to prevent and reduce gambling harm in Australia.
Your donations help enable us to end gambling advertisements to children, end predatory targeting by gambling companies and will help in the push to establish a national gambling regulator.
We’re making great headway towards reform, but we still have a long way to go. It’s still very much a David and Goliath battle for real reform.
This is why we need your support.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform is a registered Public Health charity with endorsed DGR Status meaning that your donations are tax deductible.
Thank you for your support.
Please note that we are legally obliged to record contact details such as your address and name. We also ask for your email and phone number so we can supply you with a receipt of your donation and to thank you for your support. We will never share your information with anyone outside the Alliance unless obligated to do so under the law.
Operating Hours over the Christmas Period
This year, the Alliance for Gambling Reform Office will be closed from Friday 23 December through to Tuesday 3 January 2023 to allow our team to enjoy a well-earned break.
For all inquiries, email email@example.com.