Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Interactive Gambling Amendment (Sports Betting Reform) Bill 2015; Second Reading

3:36 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Finally, I table an explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard and to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Online gambling, in particular online sports betting, has grown exponentially over the past 10 years in Australia and with it an exponential increase in the harms associated with problem gambling.

This issue was examined by the former Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform who made a number of recommendations in the course of its inquiry which were ignored by the then-government.

The Coalition's policy statement includes tougher restrictions on gambling advertising and improved self-exclusion systems, but even those limited recommendations appear not to have been followed through.

The terms of reference of the review announced by the former Minister for Social Services, the Hon Scott Morrison MP into online gambling are welcome but the terms are quite limited, with a particular focus on illegal offshore online gambling. The terms of the review appear to fail to acknowledge the enormous harm that can arise from authorised operations. I have seen through my office many cases of harm caused by legal online gambling as well as illegal online sites.

The Interactive Gambling Act 2001, whilst only 14 years old may as well be 140 years old in that it has been outdated and outpaced by the explosion in online gambling and aggressive practices of online gambling entities to lure customers.

The Australian community is already seeing the effects of a lax regulatory environment for authorised gambling sites and the absence of a political will to tackle the illegal sites by disrupting financial transactions.

In August 2015, Financial Counselling Australia released its landmark report: 'Duds, Mugs and the A-List: the impact of uncontrolled sports betting'. This report described the devastating consequences of gambling addictions on individuals and families. The report argued that a number of industry practices contributed to a person's gambling getting out of control. The ability to gamble using credit was identified as one of the biggest contributors to unsafe gambling habits. This Bill tackles this issue by prohibiting websites who offer sports betting from providing credit to individuals for the purpose of gambling. It is a simple yet powerful harm minimisation measure.

There is currently an absence of sensible measures to ensure online sports betting is conducted in a responsible manner. This Bill seeks to fill these gaps in a way that offers protection for those who have difficulty controlling their gambling but will have minimal impact on so-called recreational gamblers.

The measures introduced by this Bill aim to minimise the harm caused by uncontrolled sports betting, and to give problem gamblers more effective tools to manage their gambling.

As the case studies in Financial Counselling Australia's report demonstrate, the time for reform of the online sports betting industry is past due. Amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 are essential in order to put an end to dangerous and predatory industry practices and to make an all too often unsafe product much safer for consumers.

If we fail to act now we will see an increase in the number of Australians, particularly young men, who will lose enormous amounts of money and cause irreparable harm.

The time to act is now. The Parliament of Australia must ignore the vested interests of the online gambling industry and unambiguously side with the public interest.

Debate adjourned.


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