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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2156


Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (17:48): I rise to speak on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. This bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 by inserting a new schedule 8 to create a regulatory framework for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to make rules prohibiting or restricting gambling advertising for online content service providers. It provides for the first time a platform-neutral approach to restrictions on gambling ads during live sporting events. Sporting fans, including thousands of children, whether at the game or watching a broadcast, bear witness to an unprecedented volume of sports betting promotion before the siren, during scheduled breaks, on player jerseys, ground signage, scoreboard displays, and after the match and in highlight reels.

Whilst some form of regulation on gambling ads and associated promotion already exists, this bill attempts to restrict gambling ads on live sports coverage across television, radio and online platforms. This will include subscription television providers. The additional restrictions proposed in this bill prohibit the broadcast of gambling ads from five minutes before the scheduled start of play until five minutes after the conclusion of the live sporting event where the event occurs between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm. It provides ACMA with the power, if directed by the minister, to apply the gambling promotion restrictions detailed in this bill if existing codes of practice are not amended to include them.

This bill is the result of a lengthy campaign by researchers, community organisations and anti-gambling campaigners such as former Senator Nick Xenophon over concerns about gambling addiction and the well-established risk to children from being exposed to gambling saturation during sport. Whilst the Nick Xenophon Team support the bill, we have concerns about its implementation and the effectiveness of some of the measures. Put simply, this bill does not go far enough. It doesn't go far enough in achieving the policy intent, which is to protect children from the risks associated with being bombarded by gambling advertising. We know that the only way to protect children from the well-known risks associated with gambling ads and promotion is to remove them entirely from view. We can't pretend children ignore pre- and post-game entertainment and only sit to watch just before the game and stop watching immediately after. Given this, we will support the Greens amendment that extends the prohibition of gambling ads 30 minutes on either side of a live sporting event.

If we are serious about tackling problem gambling, we need to ensure it is not normalised. We need to ensure that kids are not primed to accept gambling as an ordinary part of sports—and life, for that matter—because of the advertising that is served up to them while they are innocently watching or listening to the cricket, soccer or footy with their families. This is why I will be moving amendments that will include a prohibition on all gambling ads during the hours of 5 am to 8.30 pm during G-rated programs and any sporting event on TV, radio or online, regardless whether the event is live or not. In instances where a sporting event has started but not finished before 8.30 pm, the NXT amendments will also extend the prohibition of gambling ads to 30 minutes after the conclusion of the sporting event. I would urge the Senate to support these amendments.

I note the explanatory memorandum states there is less of a concern where live sporting events are broadcast after 8.30 pm as children are less likely to be viewing at this time. This is not true. Children stay up late over the summer break watching the summer of tennis and summer of cricket, and teenagers don't go to sleep at 8.30 pm. I certainly wish mine did when they were younger! Under the provisions of the bill, a tennis match starting before 8:30 pm between tennis legends Federer and Djokovic at the Australian Open that goes for five sets over several hours would likely feature gambling ads between sets because they would be acceptable after 8.30 pm. We know that BBL matches were all shown during prime time and continued for three hours. Under the measures proposed by the government, there will be no gambling ads during the live match until 8.30 pm, after which gambling ads and promotions will be shown during scheduled breaks, such as the change of innings. For night AFL matches you won't see gambling ads during quarter-time, which will occur before 8.30 pm under the new regime, but you will see gambling ads at half-time and three-quarter-time when these scheduled breaks will occur after 8.30 pm.

After two years of experimentation in 2017, the AFL went all in with Thursday night footy, scheduling eight night matches. This will mean lots of gambling ads after 8.30 pm. This is why we thought it was important to extend the bans until 30 minutes after the end of play where the sporting event commenced prior to 8:30 pm. I encourage all broadcasters and online service providers to adopt these measures in their respective codes now. Former Senator Xenophon moved similar amendments in his Interactive Gambling Amendment (Sports Betting Reform) Bill 2015. During the inquiry into Nick's bill, the Australian Psychological Society made a submission stating:

… the proliferation of gambling advertising, particularly sports betting, is positioning gambling as an integral and 'normal' part of enjoying sports, and is paving the way for young Australians to become the new generation of problem gamblers.

The Gambling Impact Society of New South Wales told the inquiry that gambling advertisements often created triggers for those already struggling with gambling addiction.

At the time, broadcasters and sports-betting organisations argued against a ban, saying that people under 18 comprise a very small proportion of the audience for live sports events on television. This is simply untrue. Millions of children across the nation love sport. They participate at school and at local clubs. They attend games to see their sporting heroes in action, and they watch them on TV or portable devices at home. There are many sports specifically geared to children, like the Big Bash League, a domestic T20 competition, which has achieved record audience figures and match attendance year on year since its introduction seven years ago. Cricket Australia's efforts to attract kids and families with the BBL has paid off. More Australians are attending cricket than ever before. Last financial year, the BBL attracted an average crowd of more than 30,000 people at each match, making it the fifth biggest league in the world in terms of average attendance. Twenty of the 35 matches were sold out. These high crowd numbers were backed by strong TV ratings. More than a million viewers tuned in to watch the BBL—making it the most popular TV show 31 nights out of 35. A large proportion of this viewing audience are children, who stay up over the summer break until the last exciting ball is bowled. Sadly, CrownBet was a major sponsor for Channel 10's coverage of this year's BBL season.

The Nick Xenophon Team also do not believe that there should be broad exemptions. ASTRA's recently released draft code attempts to circumvent these bans on the basis of ratings and viewer numbers. There is absolutely no logic there. To exempt channels with an average low audience share is devious as children are watching, especially when there is a big event like the Super Bowl. On that basis, we will be supporting the Greens' amendment to specifically deal with this issue.

Gambling is a major problem in Australia. We have the highest per capita spend on gambling of any other country in the world. We stand alone as a nation of gamblers. This is shameful given that we know that a large proportion of this spend comes from thousands of addicted gamblers who have lost their homes, families, jobs and futures. The latest figures from Australian Gambling Statistics for total gambling expenditure in Australia show that the nation's gambling spend increased by 3.9 per cent between 2005 and 2016 to a whopping $23.648 billion—almost $24 billion. Total sports betting increased by 13 per cent in that time to $921 million. But by far the worst offender remains poker machines. Over $12 billion was pumped into greedy poker machines by Australians in that one year alone. These figures are astounding.

Underneath the cold facts lay the stories of thousands of families whose lives have been impacted, even destroyed, by gambling addiction and predatory gambling. Despite this, we have seen the money-hungry Australian Hotels Association fight tooth and nail against sensible measures to curb the harm from these insidious machines. Most recently, they waged a multimillion dollar war against SA-BEST in the South Australian election because of its opposition to predatory gambling. Another gambling lobby group even took to sending a gloating text message on election eve to the party leader, Nick Xenophon, that stated, 'We will kill you all off.' Well, good luck with that, because federally and at state level we will never give up the fight against predatory gambling—never.

The sporting codes are complicit when they take sponsorship dollars from sports-betting and gambling companies. The AFL has a $10 million a year deal with CrownBet, the NRL has a commercial deal with Sportsbet worth $60 million and Cricket Australia has a multimillion dollar deal with bet365, a sports-betting company hit with a $2.75 million fine in 2017 after being found guilty of luring new gamblers with false free bets offers.

Over half of the NRL's 16 teams are sponsored by sports-betting companies or casinos—over half. The biggest sporting codes in this nation have done a deal with the devil by partnering with gambling operators and sports-betting companies for sponsorship dollars. The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports, made up of the major sporting codes—including the AFL, NRL, rugby, cricket, tennis, soccer and netball—made an astonishing submission to the inquiry into the bill, saying that they know that:

… know that a large number of our fans and supporters enjoy wagering on our sports and want to remain informed about the products and offerings that are available.

Well, I'm sure they'll manage just fine without those ads.

The submission didn't bother to acknowledge the legions of their fans who are children, and the inherent risks gambling ads and promotion pose to children, and yet the research is clear on the risks gambling ads do pose to children and adolescents. The Australian Gambling Research Centre has identified that gambling ads can increase adolescents' desire to experiment with gambling. Research also shows that children have significant recall of sports-betting brands when they are aligned with culturally valued activities such as sport. And children's recall of inducements used by sports-betting companies, such as free bets and cashback offers, may reduce children's perceptions of the risks associated with gambling.

Sports stars and celebrities often feature in gambling ads, with the research showing that the use of sporting stars and celebrities to promote sports-betting companies was attractive to children because of the instant recognition. The Nick Xenophon Team want gambling restrictions that create a safe zone where parents can be confident that children can watch sport without promotional content and messages that normalise gambling. This can only occur when we remove all gambling ads and promotion during the times that children are watching.

Gambling addiction doesn't discriminate. We need to be mindful of those most vulnerable and not mindful of vested interests. We have a duty to protect children from becoming the next generation of gambling addicts. The protection of children must be the paramount consideration. This is seemingly lost by those broadcasters and sporting codes who are increasingly reliant on sponsorship dollars from sports-betting companies and gambling venues. They need to break their own habit.