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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 245


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (11:44): The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 contains proposed amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 and the regulations made under the Interactive Gambling Act. The proposed amendments are designed to clarify the law regarding illegal offshore gambling and strengthen the enforcement mechanisms under the Interactive Gambling Act. They represent the first stage of the Australian government's process to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering.

I reiterate that Labor acknowledges and shares the concerns that many people have around the growth of online betting, and I affirm that Labor broadly supports the bill's main focus, which is to bolster the enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act. Labor recognises that well-regulated gambling has a place in Australian society and believes that it is in the interests of industry and consumers that appropriate harm minimisation measures are in place.

As acting shadow minister for communications, I wish to speak to the second reading amendment to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, moved by my colleague the member for Franklin, calling on the Turnbull government to work with the broadcast television industry and national sporting organisations on a transition plan to phase-out the promotion of betting odds and commercials relating to betting or gambling during live sporting broadcasts, with a view to their prohibition. Labor's second reading amendment responds to the legitimate concerns of many Australians about the significant growth in betting odds promotion and gambling advertising, especially during live sporting broadcasts. It is designed to protect Australians, including Australian children, by acting to ensure that live sporting broadcasts are free from intrusive gambling advertising and betting odds promotion.

Like many people in this chamber, I have been watching sport on television for a long time. When I first started watching, things were far from ideal. For example, tobacco advertising used to be permitted on television—indeed, tobacco companies were the major sponsors of sport until tobacco advertising and promotion was prohibited in the early 1990s—but at least Australians were not subject to a barrage of advertisements promoting betting and gambling. That is not the case today; far from it. Today, gambling advertising is so prevalent it is changing the way our children think and talk about sport. To quote a recent report from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, published in May 2016, entitled Child and parent recall of gambling sponsorship in Australian sport:

Sports betting companies saturate audiences with advertising across a range of platforms that include television advertisements, during sporting events and, more recently, through social media and sport sponsorship.

Further, 'The majority of children aged 8-16 years were able to recall the names of sports betting brands,' with three in four children able to correctly recall the name of at least one sports betting brand and one in four children able to identify four or more sports betting brands.

Referring to this research in an August 2016 ABC news article, Tom Nightingale reported that children consider gambling ads as a normal part of sport. I quote from that article:

Deakin University researchers said children as young as eight are recalling brand names and even promotional offers.

'Children are very easily able to tell you that if you bet on a certain outcome of a game, if your team kicks the first goal but then go on to lose, that they now expect to get money back on those offers,' study co-author Associate Professor Samantha Thomas said.

The article went on to say that in 2015:

… the gambling industry spent $145 million on promotion, making it the fourth biggest spender in Australian advertising.

A 14-year-old boy told the researchers it was because ' everywhere, the ads make you want to bet. '

A 10-year-old said: ' Every time there is sport on, I ' m like, I ' m going to bet $5 for the Socceroos to win. '

The article continued:

The researchers said a loophole in advertising rules risks creating a generation of sports fans for whom gambling is normal.

   …   …   …

The researchers said a loophole in advertising rules risks creating a generation of sports fans for whom gambling is normal.

   …   …   …

… we not only have children who can name gambling companies, but also can tell us things like bonus bets, cash back refunds, and the very specific creative factors within the advertisements they see,' Associate Professor Thomas said.

A number of reports have noted an increase in gambling advertising in recent years, despite restrictions on live odds and gambling advertising introduced about 3½ years ago, in 2013.

In 2014, in a piece entitled 'Gambling ads soar following ACMA 2013 live odds ban', Alana Schetzer of The Age noted:

Gambling advertising has soared more than 250 per cent since Australia ' s broadcasting authority banned the promotion of live betting odds during sports coverage.

She noted that promotion of betting odds is allowed half an hour before and half an hour after the game by persons clearly identified as bookies, and that gambling advertising is still allowed and had increased since the live odds restrictions were brought in. To quote Ms Schetzer:

According to advertising monitoring firm Ebiquity, gambling advertising has increased 251 per cent. Between January and October, 2013, there were 19,953 gambling ads. During the same period in 2014, the number had jumped to 50,037.

More recently, in October 2016, the ABC's Media Watch program presented data from Standard Media Index showing that advertising spending on betting ads is on the rise. It said:

Betting ads are also growing like crazy.

From $91 million worth in 2011 to $236 million in 2015.

And that's far faster than any other sector of advertising …

It is instructive to revisit the context in which the current broadcasting television codes were amended to restrict betting odds and gambling advertising in live sports broadcasts. Following the leadership and intervention of the Labor government in 2013, the broadcast industry responded to address public concerns and develop rules to restrict gambling advertising in live sports broadcasting, and the promoting of betting odds, in particular. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy issued a joint media release on these issues on 26 May 2013. They stated:

The Gillard Government has demanded that Australia's broadcasters amend their broadcasting codes … to ensure a reduction in the promotion and advertising of gambling during sport.

They noted that all generic gambling broadcast advertisements would be banned during play and that advertisements of this sort would only be allowed before or after a game or during a scheduled break in play, such as quarter-time and half-time. Most importantly for our purposes today, they stated:

The Government will monitor the intensity of generic gambling advertisements within the allowed periods. If it is found to go beyond reasonable levels, the Government will impose a total advertising ban.

In response, the commercial and subscription radio and television sectors of the broadcasting industry provided draft codes of practice to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for consideration. Subsequently, in July 2013, the ACMA registered the new codes, satisfied they contained appropriate community safeguards. While the provisions in these new codes of practice served to limit the promotion of live odds, in particular, and to restrict gambling ads during play, they continued to allow: promotion of betting odds half an hour before play and in the half-hour after play by clearly identified gambling representatives; and commercials relating to betting or gambling before play has commenced, during scheduled breaks, during unscheduled breaks and after play has concluded. That is to say, the codes of practice allow significant windows of opportunity for gambling advertising around live sports broadcasts.

It is notable that, in the backgrounder to its media release announcing the code registration, the ACMA stated as follows:

… the codes do not cover the field of community concerns around gambling advertising and general sports programming. For example, ACMA research also indicates just over 60 per cent of the community find unacceptable the presentation of odds and general gambling advertisements during sports-related programs.

The ACMA will consider if there is a need to review the effectiveness of the new codes following the Australian summer sports season and will continue to examine community attitudes in order to inform its decision-making on any future regulatory initiatives.

The point is that, back in 2013, both the Labor government and the ACMA noted that further action in this area might be necessary in future, once the effectiveness of measures to address community concerns at the time could be examined.

Labor is committed to evidence-informed policy, and it is instructive to consider the evidence of Australian community attitudes to gambling advertising during sports broadcasts. According to community research commissioned by the ACMA, Australians are highly interested in sport—no surprises there! In the July 2013 report entitled Betting odds and advertising for betting agencies during sports broadcasts, the ACMA reported that, at least once a month, 62 per cent of respondents watched live sport on television, 35 per cent watched sport related television programs and 29 per cent listened to live sport on the radio.

Given the popularity of live sports broadcasts among Australians of all ages, it is little surprise that the research found clear evidence that the community finds betting odds advertising, and advertising for betting agencies, to be unacceptable. The research found that two-thirds of respondents indicated that they found promotion of betting odds during live sports broadcasts unacceptable, and more than six in 10 respondents found advertising for betting agencies during live sports broadcasts unacceptable. The research is very clear in reflecting Australians' opposition, by a substantial majority, to this form of advertising.

Thanks to the leadership of the Labor government in 2013, the broadcast industry responded to address public concerns and developed rules to restrict gambling advertising. Now, and with the benefit of three years of the operation of these safeguards, it is apparent that they do not go far enough to address very clear community concerns. It is clear that Australians want to keep the broadcast of live sport and gambling separate. It is in everyone's interest to ensure that children do not associate betting and gambling as a normal part of watching sport on television, yet these commercials continue to intrude upon our nation's love of sport and to cause significant public concern. The rules need to go further.

The time has come for government, the broadcast industry and the sporting codes to accept that gambling advertising before and during live sporting broadcasts is contrary to community standards and to amend the broadcasting codes of practice accordingly. Current restrictions should be extended to ensure there is no promotion of betting odds or gambling advertising at all in the 30 minutes before play and to ensure there is no gambling advertising at all during scheduled breaks, such as half-time, or during unscheduled breaks, such as weather delays. This approach builds on and extends the safeguards introduced into broadcast industry codes of practice in 2013, following the leadership of the Gillard government in calling for the promotion of odds and gambling advertisements to be reduced.

Again today, Labor has shown leadership on the issue of gambling advertising. Our second reading amendment to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, moved today in the House of Representatives, responds to the legitimate concerns many Australian parents and families have around the significant growth of betting odds and gambling advertising, especially during live sporting broadcasts. Labor calls on the government to work with the broadcast television industry and national sporting organisations on a transition plan to phase out the promotion of betting odds and commercials relating to betting or gambling during live sports broadcasts, with a view to their prohibition. In doing so, Labor adopts a pragmatic approach. Labor is conscious of the need to address the public interest considerations in a way that does not impose unnecessary financial and administrative burdens on providers of broadcasting services.

Labor's approach demonstrates an understanding of, and confidence in, the co-regulatory system of broadcast regulation, prescribed in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Under this system, industry has the opportunity to develop codes of practice to address matters of concern to the community and, where a broadcast industry code of practice is not operating to provide appropriate community safeguards, the government regulator may step in and regulate by way of a program standard.

Given continuing public concern around gambling advertising during live sports broadcasting, and evidence as to the harm of such advertising, particularly with respect to children, it is imperative that the government work with the broadcast television industry and national sporting organisations on a transition plan to phase out commercials relating to betting or gambling during live sports programs, with a view to their prohibition over time. I urge the government to address this issue as a matter of priority, in the national interest.