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Australia’s online gambling laws have been identified as some of the weakest in the world, according to a recent analysis of global regulatory regimes conducted by the Alliance for Gambling Reform (The Alliance).

Australia’s status as an “international laggard on regulating online gambling is allowing the gambling industry to ‘groom’ young people through the gamification of gambling”, the study concluded.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform was established in 2015 as a national advocacy organisation which works to prevent and minimise gambling-related harm.

The organisation’s findings come as a parliamentary committee focused on online gambling in Australia is due to make its recommendations later this month.

In April, the government already revealed plans to ban gambling with credit cards as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce gambling harm.

This measure accompanies earlier changes to responsible gambling slogans and the introduction of the national self-exclusion register, BetStop.

Inadequate response

However, the advocacy group argued that while other countries have implemented stringent measures such as banning gambling ads across all media platforms, Australia’s response had been inadequate.

“While Australia dithers on banning sports gambling ads an hour before and after a game, many countries across Europe and Asia have simply banned all gambling advertisements in traditional media and online,” Carol Bennett, chief executive of the Alliance, said.

Bennett went on to say that it is clear that in Australia online gambling has evolved so rapidly that research, policy, regulation and governments have not been able to adapt, address or prevent the exponential growth in gambling harm.

She said it was damning that governments did not invest in independent harm reduction bodies so there is no challenge to their ‘light touch gambling policy and regulation’.

“Most dangerously this is allowing a convergence between gambling and gaming that is targeted at young people. Gambling-like features are now embedded in gaming and most have no age restrictions,” she said.

Policy recommendations

To combat this situation, the Alliance called on the Australian government to take immediate action.

Their recommendations include restricting online gambling exposure to children and young people, banning the broadcasting of all gambling advertisements, and prohibiting all forms of online promotion, advertising, and inducements.

The organisation also emphasised the need for increased enforcement actions against companies breaching these restrictions.

Moreover, the paper highlights the necessity of establishing a robust and well-funded national gambling regulator, as well as the creation of an online gambling ombudsman.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform Online Gambling policy paper can be accessed here.