SBC News Australian parliamentary committee to probe ‘increasing reach of online gambling’

Australian parliamentary committee to probe ‘increasing reach of online gambling’

An inquiry has been launched by an Australian parliamentary committee into gambling’s societal impact on the country, covering a range of areas. 

The Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs of the House of Representatives, Australia’s lower house of parliament, announced the inquiry yesterday. 

Areas of focus cover a range of consumer protection issues, including the effectiveness of existing online problem gambling protections and quality of access to online gambling education programmes.

Chair of the Committee, Peta Murphy MP, said that ‘the inquiry will be a fresh look at online gambling and whether current laws, regulations, consumer protections and education and support programs are enough to reduce harm to gamblers’.

The MP continued: “The Committee is concerned about the increasing reach of online gambling platforms into Australians’ lives, the exposure of children and young people to gambling advertising and how this may contribute to increases in problem gambling in the future.”

Of note, the Committee will also examine the ‘the appropriateness of current gambling regulations’ with regards to emerging technologies, payment options and products. 

This is likely referring to the rise in popularity of blockchain-based products such as NFTs as well as cryptocurrency as a payment method, as such technologies are increasing in prominence in betting and gaming. 

For example, Entain – a major operator in Australia via its Ladbrokes, Neds, Bookmaker and Betstar brands – is probing adoption of NFTs via its Ennovate platform. Meanwhile, SOFTSWISS has pointed to the rise in popularity of crypto payments in betting, despite this year’s crypto-crash.

Additionally, the Committee aims to assess the ‘appropriateness’ of the definition of ‘gambling service’ in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, due to the emergence of ‘gambling-like activities’ in video games. 

In particular, the group has pointed to social casino games and loot boxes – the latter being an area of interest to Australian MPs in the past, such as Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who introduced a Bill last year to make loot boxes an 18+ product.

The video game features have attracted government attention further afield from Australia. Japan and Belgium have both put 18+ age requirements on loot boxes, Spain is assessing the same move and in the UK, the DCMS has faced criticism for not acting enough on the matter.

In Australia, the Committee’s investigation comes amid an increased focus on confronting and minimising gambling related harm in the country, such as planning to launch a national self-exclusion scheme, BetStop.

Further areas of focus are the effectiveness of counselling and support services for problem gambling, the impact of the current regulatory and licencing regimes on harm minimisation and consumer protection and the ‘potential exploitation of at-risk people, and protect individuals, families and communities’.

Lastly, the Committee intends to address the extent of Australia’s protection against illegal online gambling services, including ‘casino style gambling’ such as online blackjack and slot machines.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been undertaking an extensive campaign against illegal operators in recent years, having most recently blocked several gambling affiliate marketing websites.

To support its inquiry, the Committee is requesting written submissions from individuals and organisations on consumer protection, setting 11 November as a deadline.

SBC News Australian parliamentary committee to probe ‘increasing reach of online gambling’

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