23 October 2019
What does it take to get action on gambling reform in NSW, the state with the worst poker machine problem in the world?
Concerted effort by the Alliance, our lived experience allies and our supporters over this year has laid the foundation for significant action in NSW parliament this past week. Our staff and Champions have had meetings with Ministers, MPs and senior policy advisors. Our supporters have written hundreds of emails to the Gambling Minister and signed petitions. We’ve worked with organisations in Western Sydney to generate public conversation about the need to reduce gambling harm. Our media briefings provide the numbers that the industry wants to keep hidden.
It’s why the changes we’ve seen in NSW Parliament are so encouraging. With support across multiple parties, the NSW Upper House has now negotiated amendments to strengthen legislation regarding inducements to gamble. This comes less than a week since the Upper House called on the Minister to put NSW in line with most other states and NZ, and rename the awareness week Gambling Harm Awareness Week, rather than the industry-endorsed current Responsible Gambling Awareness Week.
“The Alliance welcomes these reforms to online gambling, which put clearer limits around the predatory behaviour of online bookmakers.” said Tony Mohr, our Executive Director.
“We’d look forward to future legislation which widens the ban to prevent inducements being offered to any account holder. Anything that encourages someone to bet for longer, or to bet more than they planned is harmful.”
Existing laws prevented betting companies from offering inducements to people to open a new account (although you’d be forgiven for not knowing there’s a ban, with the tsunami of betting inducement ads surrounding us in NSW). Earlier this year, Ladbrokes, charged with a breach of these laws, successfully appealed. The appeal judges thought that inducements could not include betting products, such as odds boosts, which surprised most observers.
The NSW government, to its credit, reacted quickly, to ensure that everyone – betting companies, judges and the general public – are in no doubt that anything that induces someone to gamble should be considered an inducement. Their amendments arrived in the Upper House this week, with a new glossary defining inducements as anything, and making it clear that it will be illegal in NSW to offer inducements to a person to:
- Open an account
- Invite another person to open an account
- Not close their account.
They also sought to make it harder for betting companies to bombard account holders with direct marketing.
In a welcome sign of politicians working together for the good of the citizens of NSW, extra curbs on betting companies were negotiated by the Greens, the ALP and the government. In addition to the proposed bans, direct marketing will be severely curtailed. Companies will now have to show that customers actively agreed to receiving a bombardment of offers. Anyone who leaves an account idle for 12 months will no longer receive any marketing from that betting provider.
And as a clear signal to courts that the community wants corporations that break the law to be given penalties that hurt, fines for most breaches of the inducement and advertising bans have doubled.
“This is just the start in NSW of reducing gambling harm” Tony Mohr, Executive Director, said. “It’s not just in the on-line world where inducements are a problem. The Alliance will continue its campaign to have all gambling-related loyalty programs banned in NSW.”
For media comment on this blog, please contact:
Tony Mohr, Executive Director 0402 336 416
Rebecca Thorpe, Communications Director 0491 209 436