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Chief Executive Officer
Message from the CEO
The last couple of months have seen a significant shift in community
awareness and concern about gambling related harm across Australia.
This has followed the Royal Commission into Crown Victoria and WA
casinos and various inquiries into casinos around the country including Star
Sydney and Queensland and South Australia. The Alliance, in addition to
our ongoing media and public advocacy, has made numerous submissions
and provided witnesses to these enquiries across a number of states and
importantly, ensured that the voices of those with lived experience are
heard and heeded.
A few notable achievements in reducing gambling harm occurred. Most
significantly, the Tasmanian government has decided (and achieved
bipartisan support) to introduce mandatory pre-commitment and cashless
gambling cards. Following on from Victor Dominello’s digital wallet trial in
NSW which saw him be moved on from his responsibility in this area, it is
wonderful to see Tasmania show the leadership to introduce possibly the
most substantial harm reduction measure. We are hopeful other states will
The Alliance joined with local community advocates in Alice Springs to
advocate for new poker machine licenses to be rejected. The Northern
Territory government decided on a 9 month moratorium on new poker
machine licences in central Australia which is a step forward in reducing
harm in that community.
And a very welcome national parliamentary inquiry into online gambling has
been launched. With the growing impact of online gambling in our
communities, this inquiry will enable much needed exploration of the
current trends, research, lived experience of harm and possible solutions.
The Alliance will provide a submission informed by our Voices lived
Finally, a significant report on gambling losses in 5 states arrived at a
conservative figure $11.74b which is a staggering and world leading result.
Read more about this research and the various activities on the Alliance’s
radar in this edition.
Thanks for your continuing support
Alliance for Gambling Reform CEO
Record-breaking $11B Losses
New research leads to calls to establish a national gambling regulator.
Australians lost more than $11.4 billion to poker machines in pubs and clubs across five states last year according to the first comprehensive, national analysis of available loss figures which cements Australia as the world’s biggest losers to poker machines per person.
And the researchers warn that without the pandemic restrictions, hotel and club gambling machine losses are likely to exceed $13 billion next year.
The new figures, compiled by Dr Charles Livingstone of the Gambling and Social Determinants Unit at Monash University also show that in the 30 years to 2019 (the latest available figures) poker machine losses in hotels and clubs in Australia amounted to $308.4 billion. Note that poker machines are not permitted in clubs and hotels in WA. Relevant data was also not readily available for ACT or the NT.
The chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tim Costello, said the losses reveal the extent of the gambling crisis that is devastating families and communities across the country, a ‘hidden epidemic’ that demands a nationally coordinated and urgent government response.
“The federal government must establish a national gambling harm regulator that can coordinate efforts to reduce the terrible toll gambling is wreaking on Australian society,” Rev Costello said.
“A regulator can bring the states together, it can progressively reduce the number of poker machines, it can fast-track harm minimisation measures such as digital wallets. At the moment there is no coordination and no will to act.”
Monash University Associate Professor Charles Livingstone, said pandemic restrictions had reduced losses in NSW and Victoria by 17% or 1.6 billion.
“Previous trends are likely to resume after the easing of pandemic restrictions with hotel and club gambling machines total expenditure for 2022-23 likely to exceed $13 billion across Australia,” Professor Livingstone said.
The annual loss of $11.4 billion in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania is the equivalent to a loss of $658 for every adult resident of those States.
Amongst people who use poker machines, average losses were $3,429 p.a. across the five states.
Our media release and key data are available here.
Federal inquiry into online gambling
The Australian House of Representatives have announced a federal inquiry into online gambling.
This is a welcome step in the right direction towards meaningful reforms that can protect our communities from the growing and harmful impacts of the complex online gambling environment.
The Terms of Reference allow the inquiry to look at online gambling holistically, from treatment, to impact on children and appropriateness of current regulations. It will even explore the impact of Facial Recognition Technology.
The Alliance will be proactively engaging in this inquiry and invites your thoughts on the issues. Please send to Tara at email@example.com
Tasmania’s mandatory pre-commitment policy
The Tasmanian Government has committed to implementing a mandatory pre-commitment, cashless card scheme on all poker machines in pubs, clubs and the casinos. The Alliance has long advocated for mandatory pre-commitment on all poker machines as an evidence-based effective tool to prevent gambling harm so we applaud the Tasmanian government for taking this initiative and hope it will extend to other jurisdictions. Read our media release here
Star Casino Inquiry Outcomes
Qld and South Australia Inquiry Submissions
After months of work highlighting lived experience of gambling harm at the Star Casino, the Bell inquiry report was published. The Alliance worked closely with people harmed at Star to ensure they could tell their story of harm and have an impact on the outcomes and recommendations of Bell’s final report.
The Star Sydney were found unfit to hold their licence and the NSW Premier himself called them ‘absolutely horrendous.’ To read the report in full click here.
AGR CEO Carol Bennett provided comment on the lack of accountability for casino board members and specifically in relation to Star’s plan to continue to operate despite the inquiry findings
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has welcomed the recommendations from the Gotterson review that uncovered appalling failures at Star Casinos in Queensland. Read our media release here.
The South Australian SkyCity inquiry is still underway
The Alliance has worked with people with lived experience of gambling harm to ensure their voices continue to be heard in these inquiries and that those investigating casinos have the most up to date and robust evidence and research backing recommendations made around preventing and reducing gambling harm.
we keenly await the findings and actions taken from these inquiries.
The final Gotterson report can be found here.
The Alliance made a submission to the Victorian Suicide Prevention and Reponse strategy last month highlighting the importance of the strategy having a dedicated focus on gambling related suicides.
You can read our submission here.
On pokies, it seems NSW Labor stands for social injustice
Rev Tim Costello
The Sydney Morning Herald
In more than 30 years of campaigning for gambling reform, I have not witnessed the anger that now exists at the excesses of the gambling industry.
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.
We need stronger, national curbs on gambling
Rev Tim Costello
Activists from the Grassroots Action Network of Tasmania protest against poker machines outside Parliament House in November 2021.
The departure of Star Entertainment Group’s acting chief, Geoff Hogg, could not have come at a worse time for the group, which on Tuesday is due to plead its case to the NSW casino regulator after it was found unfit to hold its licence.
Federal government must introduce national gambling regulator
Rev Tim Costello
The Canberra Times
Most people were not offended by the tagline, gamble responsibly - that followed the multitude of gambling advertisements that we are bombarded with every day.
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.
Gambling is changing why we watch the AFL grand final and other sporting events
Rev Tim Costello
The Canberra Times
As we approach the AFL Grand Final and the completion of another season we often ask - how is the health of the game?
The Hawthorn racism scandal has exploded into the media at the very time the league celebrates its season's zenith. It is too early to tell what these revelations will mean for other teams and the wider league.
Pokies venues should be shut after midnight
Rev Tim Costello
Almost 20 years ago the Victorian government finally moved to impose closing hours on the state’s poker machine venues.
The laws were far from draconian. Venues were required to close for just four hours a day – which meant gambling could still happen in the wee small hours of the day when those who suffer the most gambling harm are likely to lose the most.
Carol Bennett: How helpful is facial recognition in pubs and clubs in tackling problem gambling?
Carol Bennett, AGR CEO
The Canberra Times
It should be alarming to people that when they next go into their local pub or club they could have their faces scanned and their data stored.
There is a growing industry push across the nation to use new facial recognition technology.
In The News
More Australians gambling online as AMA calls for government regulation
The AMA is calling on the federal government to do more to regulate online gambling platforms and advertising of online gambling products in a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Gambling and its Impacts on Those Experiencing Gambling Harm.
It comes as new research from the Australian Gambling Research Centre shows many Australians opened accounts with online gambling companies for the first time during COVID-19. Nearly 1 in 3 of those surveyed said they signed up for a new online betting account during COVID-19. Young men were the most likely group to sign up for new accounts, increase their monthly spend on gambling and be at risk of gambling related harm.
‘Seriously flawed’ pokies grants scheme should be axed, says welfare group
The Sydney Morning Herald
NSW’s peak body for welfare services says the state government should axe a grants scheme funded from poker machine profits, warning clubs view the money as theirs “to spend as they see fit” at the expense of the disadvantaged communities it was designed to help.
The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) also wants to end its 24-year association with ClubGrants after a review found the scheme that has handed out more than $1 billion was “seriously flawed, rife with opportunities for conflicts of interest, and had no real enforcement of the rules”.
The New York Times
Four years ago, betting on live sports was illegal in most of the United States. Now, fans watching games or attending them at stadiums are barraged with advertisements encouraging them to bet on matchups, not just watch as spectators.
Game, set, bankrupt: how an addiction to gambling on tennis lost me £40,000
The UK gambling industry is worth billions, with 5% of customers responsible for 70% of that revenue. That includes me – after my addiction spiralled in the pandemic
‘Social casino’ apps: the games exempt from Australia’s gambling laws – because no one can win
The wheels of the virtual poker machine spin with every bet. Everything on the screen twinkles and shines. Coins jingle when the symbols line up and a win is recorded. A jackpot lights up the screen with colour and movement.
At first glance, Slotomania, a mobile phone game developed by the Israeli company Playtika, seems almost the same as any other electronic poker machine. Users pour tens of thousands of dollars into it, motivated by the same desire to win big that motivates any gambler.
Scattered voters lose democracy sausage spirit
"You have to wonder why neither of the major parties will commit to pokie reforms, despite record losses in pokies by the Victorian community this year. Is it because they don’t want to help those with shocking gambling addictions or is it because they don’t want to lose support of gambling donations?" Sophie Paterson, Hawthorn
Tabcorp urges ban on gambling ads on TV
Tabcorp managing director and CEO Adam Rytenskild has said Tabcorp will phase out gambling advertising during peak times even if the government does not enact new laws. The caveat on that deal (one source said) is that Tabcorp’s own stations such as Sky Racing – which run non-stop gambling ads – would be exempt from the proposed blackout.
NSW cashless cards a must: whistleblower
The West Australian
Gambling whistleblower Troy Stolz hasn't wavered in his determination to take on one of the most powerful lobby groups in NSW, despite battling metastatic cancer.
For eight years he was the head of anti-money laundering with ClubsNSW, before leaving in 2019, leaking an internal report showing more than 90 per cent of gaming venues were not complying with money laundering regulations.
Revealed: star football pundits promote World Cup gambling despite ban
Football pundits Harry Redknapp, Peter Crouch and Robbie Keane are helping to promote betting on World Cup matches despite stricter rules on celebrity gambling endorsements to protect young people.
Fifa officials estimate the last World Cup generated £120bn in betting turnover. Gambling companies hope for a similar betting spree for this year’s tournament, despite a ban on gambling in Qatar.
Victorian election: Daniel Andrews’ $10.7bn punting tax windfall
Almost $10.7bn of gambling taxes will be raised by the Andrews government over the life of this year’s budget, sparking calls by national campaigners for more independent support for the addicted and a cashless pokies card system in Victoria.
Latest budget figures show an average of almost $2.7bn a year will be reaped by Victorian Labor over the next four years from gaming machines, racing, the casino and lotteries as Australia recovers from the pandemic.
ReThink Addiction Conference
Carol Bennett (AGR CEO), Anna Bardsley (AGR Voices for Gambling Reform Coordinator), Kate Seselja and Paul Fung
The inaugural ReThink Addiction National Convention was held in Canberra from September 12-14.
It was an historic opportunity to come together to change the conversation around addiction, including the harm caused by gambling. With a fantastic line-up of speakers including AGR's Voices: Anna Bardsley, Kate Seselja and Gavin Fineff and a closing statement from CEO Carol Bennett. It also featured a video from Three Sides of the Coin.
Read more about the conference here and here.
Carol Bennett (AGR CEO), Gavin Fineff and Anna Bardsley (AGR Voices for Gambling Reform Coordinator)
Tim’s Mornington peninsula Event
Ken (Voices for Gambling Reform, lived experience advocate), Joy (Uniting Church), Rose O’Leary (Reform and Advocacy, AGR), and Rev Tim Costello (Chief Advocate, AGR).
The Mornington Peninsula community has lost $45 million to poker machines in the past six months, eight per cent more than before the COVID pandemic. Chief Advocate Rev Tim Costello and Rose O’Leary, our advocacy and policy manager discussed these escalating losses and the high number of machines within the municipality at a free forum last month at St Marks Uniting Church, Barkly Street, Mornington. @MPnews 👉 https://www.mpnews.com.au/2022/08/15/gamblers-lose-big-post-covid/
Progress in Poker Machine Reform Seminar: Geelong
Geelong has experienced record breaking losses of over $11.6M in July 2022; having lost over 2.3B in the 30 years since poker machines were introduced to Victoria.
Come along on Sunday 9 October to hear from our Chief Advocate, Rev Tim Costello discuss gambling harm, the latest poker machine reforms and what can be done to prevent and reduce further harm from gambling.
The event commences at 2pm at St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton; with an afternoon tea provided.
Join our team
We’re hiring! Join our dynamic team as our new Supporters and Councils Coordinator!
Working to prevent and reduce gambling harm in Australia, you’ll be working with a range of organisations and local councils.
This full-time role provides the opportunity to lead and engage with key stakeholders and make a real difference in gambling reform.
We are inviting you to become an Alliance for Gambling Reform Supporter
Our kids are growing up in a world awash with gambling ads, major sports are controlled by pro-gambling interests, Australians dominate the global ladder of leading poker machine losses, and it seems you can only run a casino in Australia if you are unfit to hold a casino licence.
But little by little, the Alliance for Gambling Reform is challenging the power of the gambling industry in Australia.
We are inviting you to become a Gambling Reform Supporter and enable us
to continue this critical work.
Join us and help change the way gambling is impacting our families and communities.
The Alliance is an independent charity reliant on donations and supporters to continue the work we do. The need for our work has grown substantially over the last few years so we need your help to ensure we are able to grow with the critical need for change!
Financially we are a drop in the ocean compared to the gambling industry, yet this movement is picking up pace and thanks to you, change is happening.
All donations are tax-deductible.
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.