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ACT plans hefty restrictions or possible ban on ‘insidious’ sports gambling ads

The ACT government has outlined plans to legislate hefty restrictions and a possible outright ban on sports gambling ads with senior ministers warning the “pernicious” promotions have caused undue harm to the community.

The confirmation comes as the federal crossbench MPs Monique Ryan and Rebekha Sharkie add their names to a growing list of politicians uncomfortable with the volume of gambling ads and calling for federal government intervention to reduce harm.

The ACT attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, who has previously described the industry’s targeting of young men as “insidious”, said the territory may take action if the federal government does not tighten restrictions after a parliamentary inquiry.

“Ideally the federal government will act on gaming advertising, as they hold most of the legal levers. However, the ACT is also exploring options that it can take unilaterally – if it needs to – to restrict gambling advertising,” Rattenbury said.

“Primarily we are exploring implementing a regime similar to South Australia’s restrictions on gambling advertising on TV, to see if we can replicate it, or go further.”

The South Australian restrictions, introduced in 2013, are stricter than current federal rules. They impose a total ban on all advertising between 4pm and 7.30pm, regardless of the program.

The state’s liquor and gambling commissioner, Dini Soulio, recently told a parliamentary inquiry those restrictions needed to be strengthened but he preferred a national approach.

Earlier this month, Rattenbury said any clampdown would need to involve television and radio to ensure the ad spend does not shift from one medium to the other.

“We would like to see far greater restriction, if not an outright ban, on a range of gambling advertising, particularly at times when younger people are watching, but across the board,” Rattenbury told the parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm.

Ryan said her Kooyong constituents regularly raised concerns about gambling ads and criticised the industry’s close links with the AFL.

“Promoting gambling in association with AFL games is normalising it for our young people. It’s the wrong thing to do – the AFL must know that,” Ryan said.

On Friday, the AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, told Melbourne radio station 3AW that the volume of gambling ads was “too much, so it’s in your face”.

“There is a hell of a lot of wagering advertising and potentially too much, but we don’t believe in prohibition, so it’s about what the right balance is,” McLachlan said.

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The AFL Fans Association’s survey of 3,000 people found gambling ads were now the most common concern of fans. It found 76% of fans would support a ban on gambling advertisements on television and radio while 79% supported a ban on promotions at stadiums.

Ryan said broadcasters needed “practical reforms to reduce the exposure of our children to gambling advertising”.

“I’d support stricter limits on the times ads can be placed, the shows/events in which they can be placed, and a limit to the total percentage of time that can be sold by broadcasters for gambling advertising,” Ryan said.

Sharkie, who is co-chair of the parliamentary friends of gambling harm reduction group, said she wanted a wholesale ban on wagering ads similar to the approach taken to tobacco promotions.

“I would like to see online gambling banned on television and on radio altogether,” Sharkie said.

“We have seen not just the AFL but a lot of major sporting codes become so dependent on online gambling revenue. I just find the advertising so incredibly predatory, particularly towards young men.”

The peak body for major Australian sporting codes has defended the current advertising rules and argued further restrictions could have an impact on funding for grassroots sporting programs.

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