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Tackling Gambling Harm in Australia Symposium

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REV Project team members Louise Francis and Brooklyn Royce attended the Tackling Gambling Harm Symposium jointly coordinated by the Alliance for Gambling Reform and Public Health Association of Australia.

People with lived experience, researchers and other experts and members of parliament presented on the health, social and financial impacts caused by gambling and actions needed to stem the extent of the political and regulatory capture that the gambling industry maintains in this country.

REV team member Prof. Mike Daube AO presented the session ‘The predatory industry playbook – what can we learn from tobacco?’ which outlined the strategies that predatory industries use to oppose and undermine effective curbs on their activities, and some approaches that have been effective in countering them.

Annual gambling losses across all forms of gambling of $25 billion rank Australia among the biggest gamblers in the world. An inherent focus on gambling as a worthy pastime holding a unique place in Australia’s culture has created a blind spot on gambling across Australia and upset efforts for meaningful regulatory reform.

The industry has perpetuated a toxic narrative of its importance to the social and economic fabric of Australia. The powerful accounts from those with lived experience of gambling-related harm reinforced the need for wholesale changes in the way the industry is regulated and for the industries capture in this space to cease.

A public health approach that reinforces preventative actions including robust education, strong regulation and evidenced-based research was acknowledged as the best approach to tackling gambling-related harm going forward and limit the political and economic capture of the gambling industry.

Despite the acknowledged harms associated with gambling, unlike other harmful products such as alcohol or tobacco, there is no Commonwealth-led national strategy in place focused on limiting gambling accessibility and use. National funding to limit the substantial adverse community impacts of these inherently harmful products is also not evident.

Symposium delegates agreed that a national strategy is needed along with a national regulator empowered to implement greater oversight of industry adherence to all regulations. It is expected that such national oversight would avoid some of the substantial regulatory failures that have occurred to date.

At a state level, the following was advocated as an immediate need:

  • Mandatory Pre-Commitment: introduction of cashless gambling cards, with mandatory and binding pre-commitment (loss limits) for poker machine use in all casinos, pubs, and clubs
  • Reduced Accessibility: Closing gambling venues between midnight and 10am as these are the hours when people are most vulnerable to gambling harm.
  • Environmental Changes: Introducing additional protections on poker machines’ features including banning losses disguised as wins, and decreasing maximum bets.