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Independents call for urgent gambling reform

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Staff Reporters

05 June 2024, 8:30 PM

Independents call for urgent gambling reform

Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie has accused the federal government of being addicted to gambling, in the form of donations from industry advocates.


She has joined with fellow cross bench Independent MP Andrew Wilkie to take action on gambling reform, rather than just spouting words.


They hosted an event for the Parliamentary Friends of Gambling Harm Reduction on Wednesday 5 June with a focus on gambling-related suicides and the strategies and supports that could make a difference for people suffering gambling harm. 


Associate Professor Angela Rintoul, a specialist in gambling-related harm at Federation University, told Parliamentarians that suicide is the tip of the iceberg of gambling-related harms, yet we don't have national data on how many are occurring.


Gambling harm strategies that focus on problem gamblers needing to 'gamble responsibly', ignore the glaring need for far better regulation of highly unsafe gambling products that are both readily accessible and heavily marketed, according to Associate Professor Rintoul.


Parliamentarians also heard from Ellie, who is a member of a family directly affected by gambling-related suicide, and the interim CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform Martin Thomas.


Ms Sharkie and Mr Wilkie have expressed ongoing dismay that the government lacks the will to rein in political donations from gambling entities, and frustration that it is yet to respond to the 31 recommendations from the 'You Win Some, You Lose More' report of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into Online Gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm, tabled in June 2023.


“This Parliament has heard again and again that a public health approach to gambling is needed to prioritise people's health above the economic interests of grasping gambling companies and those who benefit from their donations.” Ms Sharkie says.


“Above all, a ban on all advertising of online gambling is urgently needed - the Committee Inquiry recognised a year ago that it was creating harm then, and it is still creating harm now. And the major parties need to break their addiction to gambling donations."


Mr Wilkie says it has been almost a year since the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs released its report into the harm caused by online gambling. 


“However, the Government is yet to implement the Committee’s recommendations, including the much needed ban on gambling advertising."


“Evidently a public health approach to gambling that prioritises the health of populations over economic factors is desperately needed."


“A gambling advertising ban is particularly important as the community has had a gutful of gambling being promoted and normalised. 


"Too often people, including children, are bombarded with targeted campaigns on television, billboards and phones. Ads are everywhere and are grooming young people for future gambling addiction."


Martin Thomas, Alliance for Gambling Reform, says Australians lose $25 billion to gambling every year.


“When you rip that much money out of the community it not only causes financial loss and hardship for also terrible relationship break ups, partner violence and health and mental health issues." 


“Too many people are taking their own lives due to gambling harm. We must do more to stop the predatory behaviour of the gambling industry and protect people, especially our children, from their addictive products.”


"The industry has repeatedly proved it cannot be trusted to self-regulate so there is an urgent need for strong and informed government intervention."


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