A prominent independent Australian lawmaker has tabled a bill that would enact a “comprehensive ban on gambling advertising”.
Zoe Daniel, representative for the federal electorate of Goldstein in Melbourne, introduced the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Prohibition of Gambling Advertisements) Bill 2023 on Monday (May 22), potentially posing an enhanced threat to the industry.
“This bill would place an outright ban on gambling advertising on our screens; including broadcast television, pay TV and their respective streaming services, and on radio,” Daniel told parliament in a speech introducing the bill.
Lamenting Australia’s status as the world’s largest gambling nation by per capita spend, Daniel said Australia must “break” its “addiction” to a business model in which sports economics are based on gambling revenue.
“It's no longer time to hold ’em. It's time to fold ’em,” she said.
Daniel is one of several lawmakers known as “teal independents”, or conservative community independents who toppled establishment politicians in recent federal and state elections amid a shift to the hard right in the Liberal Party.
Her tabling of the bill comes at a time of considerable long-term unease for the gambling industry, with federal and state regulatory crackdowns, criminal or civil investigations, nine-digit fines and litigation against corporate bookmakers a regular occurrence.
Joining anti-gambling cross-bench colleagues such as the Greens and fellow independent Andrew Wilkie, Daniel is attacking the industry on an extended wave of community anger over ubiquitous sports-betting advertising in both broadcast and print modes, and at stadiums.
However, unlike Greens lawmakers and Wilkie, whom both major parties ignore wherever possible, Daniel’s status as a “teal” may afford her considerable leverage over the current Labor government.
Daniel may also be able to ride the momentum of a pending lower house committee report into the impacts of online gambling. That report is expected to recommend tougher advertising restrictions and blocks on sports sponsorship by gambling companies, among other issues.
This risk of accelerated leverage over the government appears to have been confirmed by Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), the corporate bookmaker lobby.
In a statement on Tuesday, RWA couched the importance of industry advertising in the findings of an April 2023 report it commissioned from H2 Gambling Capital, warning that “appropriate action” must be taken to prevent A$2.9bn ($1.9bn) in revenue being lost to illegal betting markets up to 2027.
The statement cited H2 as saying that “any prevention of advertising and marketing onshore has a number of significant drawbacks. Most importantly it prevents players from knowing which sites are legal and safe.
“In addition, restrictions on onshore advertising give unlicensed operators an unfair advantage because they already regularly advertise online via affiliate websites, which are difficult to police.”
The statement did not refer to Daniel’s bill, but added that existing advertising restrictions have been toughened as part of the National Consumer Protection Framework for online gaming.
In an explanatory memo also tabled on Monday, Daniel said her bill is “a direct but proportionate response to the unhealthy relationship that has developed between major sporting codes and the gambling industry”.
“The goal of gambling advertisers appears to be to encourage young people to see sport and gambling as inextricably enmeshed, indeed even as the same thing itself, rather than to enjoy the sport for itself.
“This is an unhealthy trend, readily recognised by the many parents with surveys showing that as many as three quarters of Australians want gambling advertising banned,” she said.
She concluded: “Attempts at regulation have failed; prohibition is necessary."