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02/2024

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Carol Bennett

Chief Executive Officer

Message from the CEO

It is now eight months on from when Peta Murphy delivered her multiparty inquiry report into online gambling and we are still awaiting a response from the Federal government to the 31 unanimous recommendations.  We remain hopeful that Peta’s parliamentary committee together with a large contingent of gambling reformers will be heard, with a full and comprehensive ban on gambling advertising among many other important reforms that have been neglected and are long overdue.

 

After Peta Murphy’s battle with cancer came to an end last year, the Dunkley by-election ALP candidate Jodie Belyea vowed to continue the Peta’s fight for gambling reform if successful in the March by-election.

In other news, casino reform continues. December saw Tim Costello and I presenting to the Committee reviewing the Bill which seeks to implement 11 of the 12 Gotterson Review recommendations into Star Queensland operations. When the report was delivered in February, it was clear our submission was critical to the committee reaching its decision to support the Bill, with our testimony being cited across every issue in the report. We look forward to the Bill returning to the House and being passed. 

Star continues to avoid public scrutiny, after opting not to present to the committee, they are now refusing to release their remediation plan to the public. The Queensland government disappointingly is also not publicising the plan, saying it’s up to Star to release it. And Star Sydney’s operations are now being reviewed for a second time – due to cultural failures... 

In Victoria, the Crown Special Manager has delivered a final report to the VGCCC regarding Crown’s activities and attempts to deliver on the Royal Commission recommendations. The regulator has 90 days to respond and make a final decision on whether Crown should continue to be licenced to operate the Melbourne casino.
 

On the campaign front, we joined Digital Rights Watch and 22 other groups to present an open letter to the Attorney General Mark Dreyfus MP calling for reforms to the Privacy Act to provide greater safety to children online. It was a good opportunity to meet with the Attorney General to discuss opportunities to strengthen the Act. Reforms could limit the potential for our personal information to be used for marketing harmful products.  

In February, we submitted to the Access to Parliament House by Lobbyists inquiry, advising that the current system was devoid of necessary regulation and transparency, leading to growing influence from the gambling industry. This submission was made a week after the 2022/2023 political donations were released by the AEC, with an unsurprising array of donors from the gambling industry. 

The Northern Territory has taken us all by surprise with a draft new Racing and Wagering Act presented to Parliament last week, and despite the Minister for Gaming saying stakeholders had been consulted twice on the draft, we haven’t seen this draft until now. The Northern Territory legislation has a huge impact on the rest of Australia, with the majority of online wagering companies being licenced there. The new legislation is not an improvement, and we believe does nothing to encourage let alone enforce a better standard of behaviour by operators.

In the ACT, legislation to ‘Keep Molonglo Pokies Free’ was passed in February.  This is a credit to Dr Marisa Paterson MLA and we hope this will give rise to more newly established communities being able to be kept safe from gambling harm in their community.  

 

Communities within NSW continue to record eye watering loss figures with $2.1 billion lost in just three months between July and September last year. A sad indictment on the NSW government’s failure to address gambling harm.  

 

Also, in Tasmania Premier Jeremy Rockcliff has called an early election and the Alliance is pleased to see the Tasmanian Liberals reconfirm a commitment to the landmark mandatory pre-commitment reform set to be delivered in late 2024. When delivered it will be a first for any Australian state to include important features such as binding and default limits that will have a substantial impact on reducing gambling harm. 

 

And as we go to press, news of the Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland’s visit to Belgium to meet with regulators who oversee some of the world’s strongest gambling reforms including a full ad and marketing ban came to light. We are optimistic that the Government may follow the recommendation in the Murphy report for a full ban on gambling advertising together with other important harm reduction measures.     

 

I hope to be outlining our thoughts on the Federal Government’s response to the Murphy online inquiry report in our next edition. 

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.

The Northern Territory government holds the country to ransom

With most of the country’s bookmakers licenced by the Northern Territory, the Racing Commission acts as a de facto online gambling regulator for the whole country - a situation which raised serious concerns in the Federal online inquiry. With low taxes and fees, and a regulatory regime described as ‘’light touch’, it is no wonder the online industry has gravitated towards the top end and grown to turnover $50 billion every year.

 

The government is now rushing through weak, “watered down” regulations to sidestep the Federal Government’s expected response to a scathing report into online gambling. Alliance CEO Carol Bennett accused the Territory Government of being “drunk on gambling revenue”, with the new Bill failing to address major flaws in online gambling regulations. “You need a regulator that has teeth and has the capacity to do the job properly — and that isn’t the Northern Territory”, she said to the NT news.

 

Whilst the Minister made much of the increase in fines (still just a maximum of $440,000) and new transparency and conflict of interest provisions for the six members of the commission, this distracts from the alarming new ministerial appointment acting as a gatekeeper for complaints and probity assessments of all licence applications.

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Designed to “ease the administrative burden on the new commission”, the public servant will be responsible for investigations of licence applicants, complaints including those concerning wagers, and other matters referred by the commission, along with the appointment and supervision of

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Star back in the news...

In Queensland, another milestone has been reached in responding to the 2022 independent Gotterson review of the Queensland operations of The Star Entertainment Group Limited. The review made 12 recommendations for legislative reform that would reduce gambling harm at casinos in the State.

In October 2023, a Bill which sought to implement 11 of the 12 recommendations was introduced into Parliament by Hon Yvette D'Ath MP, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence.

The Casino Control and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was subsequently referred to the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee for detailed consideration and the committee has now completed its report, making a recommendation that the Bill be passed.

Presenting at the committee examining the Bill last year with CEO Carol Bennett, Tim Costello said, "There has never been greater public consciousness and support for gambling reform".

 

A mere one week later, Star and the Queensland Government were back in the headlines with not so glowing commentary as Star avoided releasing its remediation plan, and the Government said it was a matter for Star. 

Chief Advocate Tim Costello said, "It raises profound issues around transparency and the Queensland public can really have no confidence that Star is actually reforming itself."

Going on to criticise the Government’s unwillingness to release more information to the public he said, "No other business in Queensland would be treated with the sort of kid gloves that Star is getting treated with.”

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And the bad press continued for Star, with a major study into the impact of the $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development warning the new casino would exacerbate gambling harm in Brisbane unless more is done to protect the community. The study was commissioned by the Queensland Government and cost $2 million, but the 2018 paper was never released, and obtained by media under the right to information act. It seems the money talked louder than the politicians concerns for the community - again.

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And finally, Star Sydney is now undergoing another inquiry! It was referred by the NSW independent Casino Commission for failing to reform its culture after the first inquiry found money laundering and counter terrorism failures.   

The Star to face second NSW inquiry into Sydney casino (smh.com.au)

 

As a case study in poor ethical conduct and cultural failure, it's hard to imagine what Star needs to do to lose it licence! 

Federal online gambling inquiry government response – the silence is deafening

Calls for the Federal Government to proceed with a compelling response to the Murphy report have only grown over Summer, with the end of the 2023 also marking the end of 6 months since the report was released, and the date by which the Government is by convention supposed to respond to House committee reports.

Independent Kate Chaney MP asked on February 12 in Question Time why the Government is yet to respond to the Murphy report, and whether it will serve the interests of the powerful gambling companies donating $600k in political donations or the public. Well done Kate!

Just a day later, in Senate Estimates, Independent Senator David Pocock and Greens Senator Janet Rice about the delay in releasing the Murphy report response. Officials from the Communications Department responded that they are working through what are exceptionally complex and difficult solutions to Australia’s online gambling problem. The response from government will be welcomed with intense interest when it arrives amid allegations of industry lobbying and power.

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The late Peta Murphy MP

Peta Murphy MP fiercely championed the dire need for gambling reform as Chair of the online inquiry. The ALP candidate for Peta’s seat of Dunkley in Victoria, Jodie Belyea has vowed to champion Murphy's legacy by lobbying the Albanese government to limit gambling advertising, if elected.

 

Belyea said, “When you think about cost-of-living pressures … gambling is often something that is in the mix, that is taking money away from people’s pockets. I feel really deeply that [Peta Murphy’s] work was incredible in that space and I will advocate to take that further.”

But the Federal Government haven’t completely forgotten about the need to reduce gambling harm. In late February Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth update the public on the impact of six months of the 'BetStop' register.

They announced that the self-exclusion service has received 18,000 signups since its launch in August 2023. Not bad considering the lack of promotion around the program. However, more than 500,000 have already self-excluded from gambling via their banks. Imagine what an Australian Government BetStop campaign running alongside gambling ads during sports broadcasts could do!

 

Read more here.

If you feel like we’ve been talking about this for a really long time, a recent episode of The Weekly on ABC reflects on just that. Charlie Pickering and Barrie Cassidy do an incisive summary of ten years of the show criticising the behemoth that is Australia’s gambling industry.

 

When the road to reform is unnecessarily long and arduous a little bit of satire can really get to the heart of the problem.

“Taking on gambling in Australia means taking on a connected web of powerful groups, the bookies make money off the gambling, the media make money advertising the bookies, and the sports codes take a cut of everything.”

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Political donation reform is well overdue

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The systemic issues that drive the growth of harmful industries were highlighted again on February 1 when the Australian Electoral Commission released another 12 months of political donations data, and once again we see gambling interests leading the way with both major parties receiving large amounts of funding from groups such as Clubs NSW and Australian Hotels Association.

See more from The Conversation here.

Crikey asked whether Labor would take up the recommendations of a 2022 inquiry into Federal political donations and undertake a well overdue overhaul of the system.

And in the Canberra Times on February 21, with still no hints from the Government about its response to the online inquiry, Tim Costello also focused on the systemic access and donation inadequacies that underpin our Nations relaxed regulatory regime for the gambling industry.

 

Tim wrote, “The government’s response to the Murphy Inquiry into online gambling will tell us much about how robust our political system is. The gambling industry have very deep pockets, and analysis has showed they employ more lobbyists in Canberra – in fact more than double – than any other legal, harmful industry.”

Childrens’ right to privacy online

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On Friday February 9, the Alliance's Rebecca Paterson joined Digital Rights Watch and Electronic Frontiers Australia to present an open letter signed by 22 organisations to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus.

The letter highlighted opportunities to strengthen the current Privacy Act which will limit the way that companies can create profiles of children which can be used for many purposes including targeted marketing by gambling companies.

The Alliance believes there is an urgent need to update Australia’s privacy laws for the twenty-first century. 

 

You can read more online here

On Friday February 9, the Alliance's Rebecca Paterson joined Digital Rights Watch and EFA : Electronic Frontiers Australia to present an open letter signed by 22 organisations to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

Has Crown done enough to reduce gambling harm and keep their licence?

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Crown’s Office of the Special Manager’s fourth and final public activity report was released in January, evaluating reform efforts and casino operations over the past two years.

 

The executive summary says, “In response to regulatory requirements, Crown has implemented some measures as part of its Melbourne Remediation Action Plan (MRAP). Key initiatives include a new Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct, mandatory carded play, and cash usage restrictions at the casino. These efforts are integral to Crown's commitment to gambling harm and financial crime deterrence.”
 

The report has been referred to the VGCCC who have 90 days to determine whether Crown has demonstrated enough of a commitment to reducing gambling harm to hold the Melbourne casino licence.

Crown implemented one of the last but most significant recommendations from the Royal Commission with the cashless card becoming mandatory from 14 December 2023.

The card means no one can use the pokies at Crown without using ID to sign up for the card, however Tim Costello criticised the measure which he said lacked teeth without maximum limits restricting the amount that could be set as a daily loss limit. He said, “The limit can be a million dollars; it is a complete farce.”

See more here.

Tabcorp in the headlines in Victoria

After a teen was able to gamble on more than 30 occasions at Tabcorp venues across the Northern suburbs of Melbourne, the VGCCC has ordered the company to stop taking unsupervised cash payments on its gambling terminals by the end of January.

 

The mother of a 16-year-old who experienced gambling harm provided an impact statement. “To repay my son’s gambling debts, I felt I had no choice and out of terror I withdrew my super and maxed out my credit card. I re-mortgaged my previously paid off home to pay back the criminals a total of $90,000. My son continued to enter these venues without being stopped or asked for ID. This was devastating and shocking to me that this continued to happen,” she said.

 

Read more here.

This comes just a month after Tabcorp has secured exclusive retail gambling rights in Victoria for another 20 years, ending a fierce battle with SportsBet.

 

Read more here.

See the media release here.

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Tasmania goes to an early election – how will this affect the cashless card?

Premier Jeremy Rockcliff has called an early election but the Alliance is pleased to see the Tasmanian Liberals reconfirm a bipartisan commitment to the reform which is set to be delivered in late 2024.

This is exactly the kind of reform that all states and territories should be legislating if they are serious about reducing gambling harm.

Read the Liberal's media release here.

 

 

Tim Costello said the reform was "Too important to fail."  If Tasmania successfully progresses with its plans to introduce a mandatory cashless gambling card with binding and default limits, it will represent the ‘gold standard’ in reducing gambling harm and money laundering. It’s a move that is critically needed in Tasmania.

 

We hope that no matter the outcome of the upcoming election, that this promise is not compromised.

Keeping pokies out of our suburbs

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We are pleased to announce that poker machines can never be installed in the Molonglo Valley or other future suburbs of Canberra under new laws passed in the Legislative Assembly recently.

The Gaming Machine Amendment Bill 2023 was first introduced to the Legislative Assembly in August last year following Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson’s campaign to keep the Molonglo Valley pokies-free.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform supports this move and our CEO, Carol Bennett said “This legislation demonstrates strong leadership by Dr Marisa Paterson MLA in proposing a valid solution to a growing problem that is causing significant harm in the Canberra community. It is a proposal that the Alliance strongly believes would be welcomed and should be implemented in emerging communities in other states and territories across the country.”  

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Shocking stats on
NSW losses 

New South Wales lost
$2.1 billion dollars to poker machines

New data has revealed people in New South Wales lost $2.1 billion dollars to poker machines between the 1st of July and 30th of September 2023. 
 
The quarterly data released by New South Wales Liquor and Gambling shows almost $23 million dollars was lost each day during that 92-day period. 

 
Hotels in the state are permitted to operate a maximum of 30 machines per venue, although there are rules restricting how visible they are from public areas. 

 
Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tim Costello, says New South Wales is unique when it comes to gambling.  "Most pokies in the rest of the world are in casinos, you've got to get to a casino, you've got to get home, they might be in Las Vegas, and you know, fly in and (they're) expensive. In New South Wales they're on every third or fourth block, in pubs, in clubs. New South Wales has 35 per cent of the world's pokies in pubs and clubs. It is the most utterly immoral social policy anywhere in the world." 

 

Tim was also lamenting the losses in the City of Geelong in Victoria, saying, “We’ve never had more public awareness and outrage about how predatory the pokies are, and yet, the losses keep climbing."  

 

He underscored the importance of mandatory cashless cards with default and binding limits as a critical measure to reduce the devastating harm from gambling on pokies.  

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Pokies free pubs 

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In December the Alliance launched our pokies free pubs map, and you have been eagerly adding to the number of venues. We are so pleased to highlight the wonderful establishments who’ve decided to create pubs with great food, music and entertainment that don’t have any pokies! 

Show your support for them by finding your local pokies free venues on the map next time you’re heading out.  

Don’t see your local on there? Tell us so we can promote Australia’s pokies free pubs.  

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Councils and Supporters 

The quiet of the holidays was a great time to catch up with many of our wonderful Leadership Councils, who are diligently working to reduce gambling harm locally, with a number of councils reviewing gambling harm policies. 

 

Hume has gained attention for its Sunbury United Sporting Club to combat gambling harm. 

 

We also had the opportunity to meet with some new councils, taking a drive up to Wodonga and Wangaratta as those councils establish gambling harm policies, and we congratulate them on engaging so widely on the issues.  

 

We met with Bass Coast in Victoria and Glen Orchy in Tasmania as they consider local actions on reducing gambling harm.  

 

The importance of strong council policy is underscored as we see three applications coming up with the VGCCC.  

 

The application for 50 machines in Romsey continues to occupy the Macedon Ranges community, and next door in the City of Bendigo, the Huntly Hotel has applied for 40 machines.  

 

In the City of Melbourne, the Clocks on Flinders application for 5 machines (bringing it to the cap of 105) is progressing without a public hearing. The VGCCC is not required to hold a public hearing where the increase is less than 10% of the current number of machines. The Alliance is making a submission, raising concerns about any increase in machines, as well as the use of gambling losses to fund the Doxa Clubs youth program. 

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Media Releases

Opinion Pieces

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Does anyone have a chance in a race against big gambling?

The Advocate

Rev Tim Costello

21 Feb 2024

Is Australia's political system corrupt?

Can money and power buy the outcomes it wants and do our political leaders yield to their influence if it aligns with their own personal interests or the interests of their party?

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Gambling reform in Tasmania is too important not have bipartisan support

Examiner newspaper

Rev Tim Costello

17 Feb 2024

If Tasmania successfully progresses with its plans to introduce a cashless pokies card, it will represent a 'gold standard' in reducing gambling harm.

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Online gambling does great harm. Why is government rolling the dice with public health?

Rev Tim Costello, Chief advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform

11 Jan 2024

When is a parliamentary inquiry not a real parliamentary inquiry? When the minister responsible decides to hold a series of private meetings, behind closed doors, with organisations that have a vested interest in the outcome – many of which didn’t bother to put in a submission to the public inquiry.

In The News

This community club took extreme measures to kill off its pokies

The Age

6 April 2024

“The Hastings Club is reacting to state regulations that limit its capacity to meet increased liabilities at a time when returns from gambling are diminishing,” said the Alliance for Gambling Reform chief executive Carol Bennett.

“The government should be providing clubs every opportunity to surrender poker machine entitlements for the benefit of the community, but this is unlikely given the parlous budgetary situation in Victoria,” she said.

“A government focussed on reducing gambling harm would strive to reduce overall pokies entitlements altogether. Revenue from gambling should not be propping up the Victorian budget.”

'Dud' policy or 'absolutely essential'? Battlelines drawn over the best ways to reduce gambling harm

Riotact

2 April 2024

Alliance for Gambling Reform CEO Carol Bennett asked why the two had to be mutually exclusive.

“Why wouldn’t we aim for both?” she asked.

ACTCOSS CEO Devin Bowles added: “Having a system that encompasses the whole jurisdiction is absolutely essential if we want to minimise gambling harms.”

NSW Netball Teams Back Gambling Ad Ban

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5 April 2024

The mistake raised calls for gambling advertising reform with the ground-based ads engraining gambling practice within the sport itself. According to the Alliance For Gambling Reform, three in every four kids believe that gambling is a normal part of sports, and anyone 12 or younger has never watched a sporting game without bearing witness to gambling advertising of some capacity.

Have your say on whether $8m pokie-free Warringah Golf Club House should be able to serve alcohol

The Daily Telegraph

2 April 2024

Outspoken anti-poker machine campaigner and supporter of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Pat Daley, praised the club for going pokie-free.

Mr Daley, who pushed for gambling reforms while a councillor with Northern Beaches and Warringah councils, said it th golf club was seen as a “real example of what can be done” as NSW moves towards a reduction in macines and tougher poker machine policies.

“The proposed new club has wide support in the local community”.

“An Error Was Made In Round One”: Tabcorp Admits To Breaching Its Own Advertising Rules

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3 April 2024

The mistake has raised calls for gambling advertising reform with the ground-based ads engraining gambling practice within the sport itself. According to the Alliance For Gambling Reform, three in every four kids believe that gambling is a normal part of sports, and anyone 12 or younger has never watched a sporting game without bearing witness to gambling advertising of some capacity.

“I am now reluctant to allow my child to view the footy fixture online due to the ‘Bet Easy’ icon next to the game. I also feel annoyed and dismayed at the AFL that they have allowed a gambling company to infiltrate the game,” an anonymous source told the Alliance For Gambling Reform.

‘We know the community is over it’: how self-regulation of gambling ads came unstuck minutes into an AFL game

The Guardian

1 April 2024

Tim Costello, the Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, says the return of football has reminded many families of what they hate: “a tsunami of gambling and sports betting ads”. “Fans hate it,” Costello says. “Parents hate it. But the AFL is unmoved. Do gambling interests now completely own our game?”

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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