A person gambles on a poker machine at a pub in Sydney, Australia, September 19, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

SYDNEY: Australia should phase out advertising for online gambling in three years, a parliamentary committee of inquiry recommended on Wednesday as it looked to limit the “havoc” it caused in one of the world’s biggest betting market.

The committee made 31 recommendations on how online gambling, which it said was changing the culture of sport, should be regulated and how Australians struggling with addiction should be supported.

Australians outspend the citizens of every other country on online gambling, Peta Murphy, chair of the committee said in the report titled “You win some, you lose more”.

“This is wreaking havoc in our communities,” Murphy said.

Murphy said online gambling companies advertise deliberately and strategically alongside sport, which has normalised it as fun and harmless and socialble activity.

A generation of young Australians views gambling and sport as inextricably linked, Murphy said, adding that it was changing the culture of sport.

“Australia would be diminished if sport was to be so captured by gambling revenue that providing an opportunity for betting came to be seen as its primary purpose,” Murphy said.

Major setback

A phased, comprehensive ban on all gambling advertising on all media, broadcast and online, that left no room for circumvention, was needed, the panel said.

It recommended the ban be phased in over three years so sporting bodies and broadcasters had enough time to find alternative sources of advertising revenue.

The ban would be a major setback for online gaming companies like London-listed Flutter Entertainment PLC - owner of the most popular betting app in Australia, Sportsbet, Entain PLC - owner of third-ranked app Ladbrokes, and Tabcorp Holdings.

Australia is the world’s biggest gambling nation in terms of losses per person. Its gambling industry has been in the spotlight in recent years, with public inquiries criticising big casino operators over lapses in money laundering protections.

The gambling problem shifted online to a much greater extent when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of public venues.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would consider the recommendations.

“We need to deal with online issues, we need to deal with social media issues, we need to deal with it comprehensively across the board,” Albanese said on ABC Gold Coast radio