Victoria Parliament Committee Piles Pressure On Online Operators

November 29, 2023
Pressure continues to build on corporate and retail bookmakers in Australia’s Victoria state after a parliamentary committee recommended tougher advertising, reporting and harm minimisation rules.

Pressure continues to build on corporate and retail bookmakers in Australia’s Victoria state after a parliamentary committee recommended tougher advertising, reporting and harm minimisation rules.

The joint parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee on Tuesday (November 28) released a gambling and liquor regulation review that supports tighter harm minimisation obligations for corporate and retail bookmakers, as well as gaming venues.

The report’s 61 recommendations dovetail in some cases with a unanimous push by members of a federal parliamentary committee to ban online gambling advertising in its entirety.

The Victoria report does not go so far, but it does recommend the state government “urge the Commonwealth government to implement advertising bans in relation to gambling activities in line with international best practice”.

In what may be a first among Australian state and territory governments, the report also recommends that the state government consider a ban on advertising “in areas that come under state jurisdiction, such as public places”.

It also suggests that Victoria extend federal government advertising restrictions and emulate the South Australian government in imposing “stricter rules” for primetime broadcasts.

Other recommendations conform with a much tougher approach by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) to online and land-based regulation and punishment.

The report supports attaching harm minimisation conditions to wagering and betting licences from August 2024, as well as a binding code of conduct and review of penalties for online gambling operators.

Drawing from the ten-item National Consumer Protection Framework reforms for online gambling, the report backs improved regulator and government access to online gambling customer data by region, socioeconomic status and demographics, including real-time data.

It also recommends that Victoria lobby the federal government to source real-time data from all licensees as part of “comprehensive anonymised data on customer use of [corporate bookmaker] products”.

Reform of gambler metrics is also on the table, with the report calling on the state government to consider “daily, weekly and annual gambling loss limits, including lessons from regulatory frameworks” in the Nordic nations of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Other leading recommendations include:

  • Considering a reduction of electronic gaming machines across the market.
  • Reviewing political donation practices in the gambling industry.
  • Considering redirection of gaming venue “community benefit” contributions to a public fund for addressing gambling harm.
  • Work with the state coroners’ court to expand a database for gambling-related suicide.

The report’s other recommendations generally address problem gambling research, administration and treatment delivery, but the committee has also sought to strip the state’s three racing code peak bodies of their regulatory powers.

Recommendation 57 and Finding 85 declare that all racing regulation should be transferred to the VGCCC because the inconsistent role of peak bodies for thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing “is no longer fit-for-purpose”.

This is because of “regulatory overlap across licensing, monitoring and enforcement activity, conflicts of interest in regulatory function, diversion of resources away from [state] thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing, and Victorian bookmakers offering wagering services unrelated to racing, including sports betting”.

The committee report is a reminder of how Victoria has transformed into Australia’s toughest gaming jurisdiction, although the committee’s Victorian Greens membership submitted a minority report that said reforms should be tougher still.

The minority report urged A$1 ($0.66) bet limits for slot machines, tighter card play load limits and jackpot limits, and an extension of the curfew for slot machine play by four hours, starting midnight instead of 4am, among other changes.

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