In a campaign to reinforce gambling laws and prevent ‘damage’ to gamers, The Australian Alliance for Gambling Reform (AAGR) has published a proposal with a framework to reform the industry. Recommendations have been identified in a report published to promote safer gambling practices. The AAGR say that current regulations in Australia do not address the “fundamental drivers” of gambling harm. The report recommends that the systems for preventing gambling harm are “completely overhauled and new reforms implemented”. The report cites Australia as having “the highest per capita gambling losses in the world.”

The AAGR state that there is a lack of accountability and transparency both at government level and within gaming companies possibly because the industry is so profitable for operators, therefore also making significant monetary contributions to governments.

AAGR believe that advertising is under-regulated and says that it is necessary to reduce online gaming harm by restricting exposure to children and young people with a ban on broadcasting of advertising and online promotions.

There is a request for restructure of gambling regulation in Australia and a call for a Minister to take responsibility of online gambling harm prevention. AAGR proposes to establish a well funded land-based gambling regulator and an online gambling ombudsman. It would like to see a public health approach adopted with similar warnings such as those used for tobacco and alcohol.

Under the current systems, responsibility for preventing online gambling harm is placed in the hands of gambling operators. AARG adds that there is a “clear conflict of interest when it comes to increasing profits”. It claims that the industry has developed its own “safer gambling tools to avoid scrutiny and impactful legislative changes which will decrease profits”. Smart phones enable gamers to gamble in privacy using the services of multiple bookmakers simultaneously.  AAGR recommends the implementation of a ‘pre-commitment scheme’ linked to proof of the gamer’s income to reduce online gambling losses. 

Research indicates that only ten per cent of gamers seek help for high levels of gambling-related harm when they require it. AARG recommends training and accreditation for all online gaming employees to enable them to support gamers experiencing gambling harm. Staff also need to be educated on co-morbidities that may develop as a result of gambling harm. AARG recommends regular evaluation by health professionals of gamblers seeking help for issues relating to gambling harm with helplines made available and managed by health professionals.

AARG refers to a study conducted in the UK last year using anonymous banking data over a period of seven years. It claims that gambling harm rates are higher and more prevalent than previous years. AARG recommends an increase in investment for more research that will identify the best approaches that are needed to curb gambling harm. The findings of the research, adds AARG, should be published and made available with reviews and recommendations to the gambling industry. 

The ‘Alliance’ is a non-governmental organisation made up of a collaboration of 66 organisations campaigning in favour of removing harmful aspects of gambling to make “Australia a safer, healthier and more equitable society”. The organisations within AARG promote a safer environment in gaming to prevent damage to people and communities supporting gamblers.

AARG has also been supporting the recent landmark court case against Crown Casino.

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