Amid calls for action

Australia: ACT government mulling further restrictions, potential outright ban on sports gambling ads

ACT attorney general Shane Rattenbury
Reading time 2:05 min

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has outlined plans to legislate hefty restrictions and a possible outright ban on sports gambling ads with senior ministers, warning the “pernicious” promotions have caused undue harm to the community. 

As reported by The Guardian, the confirmation comes as the federal crossbench MPs Monique Ryan and Rebekha Sharkie add their names to a growing list of politicians uncomfortable with the volume of gambling ads and calling for federal government intervention to reduce harm. 

Rebekha Sharkie

The ACT attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, who has previously described the industry’s targeting of young men as “insidious”, said the territory may take action if the federal government does not tighten restrictions after a parliamentary inquiry. 

“Ideally, the federal government will act on gaming advertising, as they hold most of the legal levers. However, the ACT is also exploring options that it can take unilaterally, if it needs to, to restrict gambling advertising,” he said, as reported by the cited source.

He noted the ACT government is primarily exploring the implementation of a similar regime to the one in South Australia, where there are restrictions on gambling ads on TV, “to see if we can replicate it, or go further.”

Restrictions in South Australia were introduced in 2013 and are stricter than current federal rules, as they impose a total ban on all advertising between 4 pm and 7:30 pm, regardless of the program. 

South Australia's liquor and gambling commissioner, Dini Soulio, recently told a parliamentary inquiry those restrictions needed to be strengthened but he preferred a national approach. 

Earlier this month, Rattenbury said any clampdown would need to involve television and radio to ensure the ad spend does not shift from one medium to the other. He told the parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm the intention is to see far greater restriction, if not an outright ban, on a range of gambling advertising. 

Ryan said her Kooyong constituents regularly raised concerns about gambling ads and criticized the industry’s close links with the Australian Football League. “Promoting gambling in association with AFL games in normalizing it for our young people," she said. "It’s the wrong thing to do, the AFL must know that.”

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan

On Friday, the AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, told Melbourne radio station 3AW that the volume of gambling ads was “too much" but that the league didn't believe in prohibition.

The AFL Fans Association’s survey of 3,000 people found gambling ads were now the most common concern among fans, and 76% of them would support a ban on television and radio, while 79% supported a ban on promotions at stadiums. 

Ryan said broadcasters needed “practical reforms” to reduce the exposure of children to gambling advertising. “I’d support stricter limits on the times ads can be placed, the shows/events in which they can be placed, and a limit to the total percentage of time that can be sold by broadcasters for gambling advertising," she added.

The peak body for all major Australian sporting codes has defended the current advertising rules and argued further restrictions could have an impact on funding for grassroots sporting programs.

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