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Chief Executive Officer
Message from the CEO
There is so much potential for gambling reform on so many fronts and featuring highly on both State and Commonwealth agendas. The chorus of voices calling for our political leaders to step up and do something to remove the hold that gambling has over every aspect of our lives from our sport to advertising, online to our phones – we are saturated in availability of gambling products at every turn.
The NSW Election has captured the nation's attention with a promise of a cashless gambling card. With the ALP claiming victory on Saturday, the trial of the cashless card on 500 of the state’s 90,000 poker machines will shortly commence with the oversight of an ‘expert panel’. It's hard to imagine that the genie can be put back in the bottle with community concern about gambling harm at an all-time high in NSW and around the country. I am of the firm view that the outcome of the NSW election results across numerous electorates suggest gambling reform can and has been a vote winner for many candidates. Read our media release here.
At a national level, the new Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction officially met at Australian Parliament House to explore issues related to online gambling. I provided a short outline on gambling harm in Australia followed by two of our lived experience advocates, Gavin Fineff (via his mum Lyn in a written presentation) and Harry (supported by his dad, Peter). This was a powerful event that attracted MPs and staffers from all sides of the political spectrum. It is good to see so many of our federal parliamentarians supporting gambling harm reduction!
Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction officially met at Australian Parliament House on Wednesday 22 March 2023.
Left to right: Harry's father - Rebekha Sharkie MP, Harry - Carol Bennett, CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform - Kate Seselja, Voices Manager Alliance for Gambling Reform and Andrew Wilkie MP
The Federal Inquiry into online gambling and its impact on those experiencing gambling harm continues to hear some incredible evidence from industry, researchers and harm reduction experts, those with lived experience and regulators. The Alliance provided evidence in December 2022 and a submission calling for a ban on broadcast advertising and national strategy and regulator to address the growing problems related to online gambling. We are also keen to see a ban on credit for gambling and have launched a policy paper on this issue. We look forward to the report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in early June.
Last month, our Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello and I met with the Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland MP. It was a good opportunity to discuss necessary changes to ensure gambling harm is addressed nationally. The Alliance looks forward to seeing real reform at the national level.
We met with the Victorian Greens Member for Gambling Harm Reduction (and former Alliance team member), Ms Katherine Copsey MP. We have also been working with the very active federal crossbench including two roundtables with crossbenchers led by David Pocock MP on marketing of harmful products.
Our collaboration with other key public health groups continues to gain momentum including our work with the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) on political donations. We have also welcomed advocacy from Wesley Mission on NSW losses in some of the most socially disadvantaged suburbs. And our joint conference with the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) conference is only a month away in May so please if you haven’t already, secure your place to hear from the country’s best experts and those with lived experience of gambling harm.
I hope you enjoy reading about the gambling reform activity happening all around the country.
Carol Bennett, CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform at the National Roundtable on harmful products marketing hosted by Senator David Pocock
Rose O'Leary, Advocacy and Policy Lead Alliance for Gambling Reform - Carol Bennett, CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform and Katherine Copsey MP.
Carol Bennett,CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform - Allegra Spencer MP and Kate Seselja, Voices for Gambling Reform Manager
Premier-elect Chris Minns. Photo by JANIE BARRETT
The 2023 NSW State Election has provided a watershed moment for significant gambling reform opportunities. With both major parties proposing gambling reforms, neither signing agreements with the gambling industry (the first time the coalition haven’t signed an MOU with ClubsNSW for over a decade) and a tsunami of news around the harm gambling causes to NSW residents, it has been an incredible step towards significant change.
Premier-elect Chris Minns and his team are to be commended for leading the ALP to victory after 12 years in opposition. The Alliance wish him and his team well as the new government of NSW.
Many supporters of gambling reform may have preferred a different outcome in this election. Some may have been hoping for a Perrottet victory, or perhaps a minority ALP government where the crossbench support for gambling reform might have driven a more ambitious harm reduction approach from the new ALP government. At the time of going to print there are still seats to be resolved but an ALP Government does not mean gambling reformers lost at this election especially with independents including Alex Grenwich, Joe McGirr and Helen Dalton pushing for poker machines reform as a priority issue.
We expect that the clear message sent to all NSW politicians in this election will be heeded and that there will be further steps taken towards real action to reduce the unacceptably high toll gambling is taking on individuals, families, communities and workplaces right across NSW.
The Alliance’s media release can be found here.
Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction
On Wednesday 22 March 2023 the first meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction for the 47th Parliament was held at Parliament House, Canberra. The friends' group is co-chaired by Andrew Wilkie MP and Rebekha Sharkie MP. Members consist of members and senators from across the political spectrum and all members and senators were invited to attend the meeting.
The Alliance provided input to the program which focussed on online gambling and included presentations from Carol Bennett, CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform - overview of the impact of gambling in Australia (including online gambling); Gavin Fineff on companies targeting losers – a personal experience (presented by his mum Lyn) and Harry who presented a younger person’s experience of online gambling.
To read more about the meeting go here.
Peta Murphy MP, Chair of Inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm and member of Parliamentary Friends Group and Carol Bennett, CEO Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Some photos from the first meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction
Facial Recognition Technology
The Alliance published a policy paper on the risks of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) in pubs, clubs and casinos with poker machines. The paper looks at international examples of FRT being used to increase gambling losses and provides a recommendation for policy makers to introduce a moratorium on FRT until legislation has been adopted to ensure it is not being used to create additional gambling harm. Read the policy paper here and our media release.
Use of credit for gambling online
The Alliance published a policy paper on the risks associated with allowing people to gamble online using credit and calls for a complete ban on the use of credit, buy now pay later, digital or e-wallets and third party payment mechanisms to gamble online. You can read our full policy paper here and our media release.
Independent MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction, Rebekha Sharkie MP
Independent MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction, Rebekha Sharkie MP launched a private members bill on a credit ban and acknowledgement of losses into the federal House of Representatives on Monday 27 August 2023. Rebekha has also lodged a notice for a private members bill to ban gambling advertising.
Independent Zoe Daniel MP has also lodged a notice of a private members bill on the ban of TV gambling advertising.
Wonderful to see leadership from the crossbenchers towards real gambling reform!
Councils and Supporter Organisations Update
The Alliance’s Leadership Councils in Victoria have been busy across February. Taking a cue from the NSW focus on mandatory cashless gambling, we have seen letters from Brimbank, Casey, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Hume, Monash, Whittlesea and Wyndham to the Victorian Premier and MPs, imploring them to bring in a mandatory cashless system (as opposed to opt in system Victoria has now) to stem the tide of losses in the community. These councils represent eight of the councils that had the top ten losses in Victoria in 2022.
Their efforts generated quite a bit of media interest, including stories on Channels 7 & 9 news, several radio interviews and reports in a number of newspapers. It was great to see this issue being discussed so widely, and we hope that many more councils will join this campaign and sign our letters going to the Premier, Minister and Opposition Leader in March. As always the support from our councils and Councillors is integral to engaging the whole community in the desperate need for gambling reform.
At the March meeting of Victorian Local Government Associations’ working group on gambling, many Leadership Councils discussed the need to renew their prevention from gambling harm policies, which are a key part of how councils reduce gambling harm in their communities by directing how they regulate and advocate on this issue.
Community Forum on Gambling Harm
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate Rev Tim Costello.
Airport West Uniting Church Community Forum on Gambling - Mar 22, 2023
Our Chief Advocate Rev Tim Costello and one of our lived experience Voices Fred Rubinstein presented to a large number of community members at the “Community Forum on Gambling” hosted by Airport West Uniting Church. Tim spoke passionately about the need for Victoria to provide mandatory cashless gambling as other states were moving ahead with this measure known to reduce both the harm from gambling and money laundering associated with EGMs. Fred had listeners captivated as he spoke of his journey from a sports loving boy, to a grieving son, to becoming nocturnal at 18, chasing wins at night and sleeping all day. He lost everything in a year and without significant family and professional support, wouldn’t have been able to recover.
The forum also provided the opportunity for the audience to hear from Cameron McLeod, the CEO of North Melbourne Football Clubs “The Huddle”, which is the community arm of the football club focused on using the power of sport to develop socially inclusive communities. North Melbourne was the first AFL club to divest from poker machines in 2008 and was the only Victorian club without EGMs until others started to divest a decade later. He left us with the message that sport has the ability – and the responsibility - to be an agent for change.
Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Hon. Melissa Horne MP was also on the panel, and she talked about the Victorian Royal Commission into Crown and the recommendations the State Government had implemented in relation to the casino. She also spoke of the growing concern we should all have regarding online gambling, that this is what we need to worry about when it comes to future generations as the technology used for online gambling will continue to become more sophisticated, and the Federal Government needs to do something to stymie this. She fielded several questions about poker machines outside of the casino, including regarding mandatory cashless gambling, $1 maximum bets and whether the government would reduce the number of machines in suburban pubs and clubs. She did not give an indication of any future changes regarding poker machine regulation or licensing in venues outside of the casino.
The Alliance applauds the Airport West Uniting Church for bringing together such a wonderful event, giving the audience an eye-opening look into the gambling industry and how it impacts the entire community. They left the event eager to know what they could be doing to stop the industry’s continued grip on our Nation.
for Gambling Reform
What an incredible month for lived experience voices highlighting the need for national reform. Front pages of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, podcasts, radio interviews and stories in publications both in Australia and abroad (for example, the BBC and Al Jazeera). It is an honour to be in this role and work alongside people willing to share their stories to create necessary change.
Kate was a guest speaker of lived experience speaking at a Uniting Church event alongside Wesley Mission CEO, Stu Cameron titled Put a brake on poker machine harm: a pre-election forum in New South Wales.
Australia has a 'pokies' gambling problem, but is change coming?
At the lowest point of her addiction, Kate Seselja sat in front of an electronic gambling machine for hours, crying as she stared at the glowing nil balance.
Her phone buzzed on an intermittent loop - her worried husband calling "a hundred times", and increasingly desperate to find her.
Overcome with feelings of dread and shame, she thought about ending her life - but didn't because she was pregnant with her sixth child.
"I was so mentally, physically, [and] emotionally done with this existence, this addiction" she tells the BBC.
Read full article here.
Kate asks a key question - why is gambling not treated as a public health issue in Australia like other products that can cause harm?
Congratulations to the ALP:
Election Results show gambling reform is a pressing issue in NSW
27 March 2023
Laws to stop gambling on credit a ‘Swiss cheese’ of loopholes - Young Australians racking up huge debt to gamble online in record numbers
13 March 2023
‘Blinkered’ decision to hold government-sponsored health jobs summit at casino condemned
2 March 2023
Banning gambling political donations not enough to curb ‘unfair’ and ‘privileged’ access to government ministers
1 March 2023
Facial recognition tech has been exploited to increase gambling losses - Industry’s touted panacea for gambling harm, inferior to cashless gambling card
28 February 2023
21 February 2023
9 February 2023
1 February 2023
A bad bet: super funds gambling stocks reflect our national blind spot
Croakey Health Media
9 Nov 2023
Australia has a very big blind spot when it comes to gambling and the immense harm it causes in the community.
Gambling harm is not treated as a public health issue like other ‘harmful, legal’ products such as tobacco or alcohol. There is little or no government funding of research or public education to better understand just how harmful gambling can be.
Of course, it is not a natural blind spot; it is one that has been carefully curated and bankrolled by the billion-dollar gambling industry.
It is an industry that outspends virtually all others when it comes to advertising, with over a million gambling advertisements broadcast on free-to-air television and on radio alone in the 12 months to April 2023.
Strong links between gambling and suicide need to be considered in reform
The Canberra Times
20 Sept 2023
New research undertaken by Federation University in collaboration with the Coroners Court of Victoria, examined the Victorian Suicide Register which revealed at least 184 suicides were directly related to gambling. There were another 17 gambling-attributed suicides by "affected others" such as family members.
The gambling industry gets a ringside seat at the University of Sydney research centre
Rev Tim Costello
18 Oct 2023
This week Sydney University announced it has established a centre for excellence in gambling research. This centre is substantially funded by the International Center (sic) for Responsible Gaming, as well as Entain Australia and Sportsbet.
Entain Australia and Sportsbet are subsidiaries of international gambling operators, and run major online bookmaking businesses in Australia, as well as other global operations.
In The News
Opinion: Our Pubs Are Sh*t, Sydney. I’m Sorry To Be the One To Say It, But It’s the Simple and Honest Truth
23 January 2023
I’m often asked, as the CEO of one of the only pub groups in Sydney that doesn’t operate poker machines, what on earth I’m thinking. A fair question, really, given that our state carries the second highest quota of so-called “brickie’s laptops” in the world, behind only Las Vegas. It’s also leading the way in Australia – NSW has half of the nation’s pokies.
NSW Labor devising plan to combat problem gambling, says senior frontbencher
The Sydney Moring Herald
5 January 2023
Senior NSW Labor frontbencher Ryan Park insists the opposition is not opposed to a cashless gaming card after the state’s top union boss made a dramatic intervention into the gambling debate and backed Premier Dominic Perrottet’s reform plans.
We blew up the pokies, brought back the music and lifted turnover 700%
The Sydney Morning Herald
13 March 2023
...The suffering associated with gambling and pokies is well documented. We can’t pretend we no longer know. As Reverend Tim Costello says, gambling is Australia’s equivalent of America’s gun problem. It’s time for politicians and policymakers to shake things up, but let’s not wait for them. Question the board of your local club about what it’s doing to wean itself off pokies, and to bring back these spaces for culture, community and connection. It’s a gamble that guarantees a win...
Young men biggest at-risk group for gambling
12 March 2023
The Alliance for Gambling Reform says past efforts to ban gambling on credit have been clumsily framed and at least in part relied on the gambling industry to self-regulate. It notes that while credit cards can’t be used in licenced venues, casinos or TABs, there is no tracking of cash taken from credit accounts out of ATMs. And the restrictions on online gambling providers to offering credit to customers doesn’t extend to on-course bookmakers or telephone-based services.
Call for cashless gambling
10 February 2023
The push from the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) follows an announcement from New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet that all pubs and clubs in the state must introduce cashless gaming systems across all poker machines by 2028.
In December , Hume residents spent more than $12 million on pokies, up on the prior two months by at least $470,000. In Sunbury, more than $11.5 million was lost on poker machines across six clubs between July and December last year.
Perrottet’s poker machine revolution passes snap meeting of cabinet
The Sydney Morning Herald
5 February 2023
All poker machines in NSW will be cashless within five years after Premier Dominic Perrottet’s long-promised gambling reforms passed a snap meeting of cabinet.
After months of contentious public debate, and tension within the Coalition, the most significant overhaul to gambling since poker machines were legalised in the state in 1956 will include a range of financial support measures for clubs and pubs to introduce the new technology, as well as a specific regional transition fund.
Gambling ‘false hope’ for mortgage shortfall, flags Costello
25 January 2023
To what extent is gambling affecting loan repayments? That’s “a really good question,” said anti-gambling campaigner, the Reverend Tim Costello.
Relieving stress and rising consumer costs mean two things prosper: “gambling and eating more chocolate,” according to Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate, the Reverend Tim Costello.
Speaking to Mortgage Business, Mr Costello highlighted the impact that the rising interest-rate environment could be having on Australian borrowers - particularly on those who gamble.
“Gambling almost certainly [affects loan payments] because people have an attitude of ‘I'm stuffed anyway, I might be able to make this mortgage gap with a win’, he explained.
AFL 2023: League open to hypocrisy criticism over lack of action against Tarryn Thomas
24 January 2023
The AFL has been savaged for “hypocrisy” in “casting aside a young umpire” accused of Brownlow Medal leaks while taking no action against troubled North Melbourne star Tarryn Thomas.
Thomas, 22, was charged last week with a single count of threatening to distribute an intimate image following a three-month police investigation over a dispute with an ex-girlfriend.
RSLs across Australia urged to follow Tasmania and cut ties with pokies
20 January 2023
Anti-gambling campaigners have urged RSL sub-branches and affiliated clubs around the country to follow the Tasmanian organisation’s lead and completely divest from poker machines.
The last Tasmanian sub-branch with poker machines, Devonport, has agreed to remove its machines by the middle of the year, in return for more financial support for veterans services from the state branch.
Social justice meets public health: tackling gambling harm in Australia
The 'Social Justice Meets Public Health: Tackling Gambling Harm in Australia' symposium tickets are for a limited time $399 for supporters of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
The event is a hybrid format - this means that you have the option of attending the event in person in Adelaide or online.
The Alliance and the Public Health Association of Australia are thrilled to be co-hosting the Social justice meets public health: tackling gambling harm in Australia symposium, as part of the national Preventative Health Conference.
We have incredible speakers with leading experts in public health, lived experience, social justice, as well as leading researchers and academics
Hosted in Adelaide (with virtual attendance available), this symposium is not to be missed.
Tickets are limited. The program is available at https://www.prevention2023.com/gambling-harm-symposium
to End Gambling Ads
Can you help support the work of the Alliance for just the cost of 2 coffees a month?
Gambling is a rapidly growing public health issue in Australia, and the constant bombardment of gambling ads during live sports broadcasts, as well as on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and online gaming platforms, is a cause for concern. These ads are often targeted towards young people and are placed at times and in places where children and teenagers are most likely to see them.
A 13-year-old today doesn't know a world without gambling ads. Online gambling companies were some of the top-spending advertisers in Australia in 2021 with advertising on gambling around $281 million (AdNews, 2022)
I am inviting you to make a regular donation of $10 a month to support our End Gambling Ads Campaign.
To make your donation click on donation buttons to choose to donate through Square or Paypal, where you can securely set up a monthly donation of just $10. Of course, any amount you can contribute will help us to make a real difference.
Thank you for your continued support!
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Alliance for Gambling Reform Inc is a registered public health charity, with endorsed DGR Status. All donations are tax deductible.
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