Australia: The Coalition’s “policy to help problem gamblers”

by DLA Piper
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The Opposition has released a four part plan which focuses on a national voluntary scheme to tackle problem gambling and help problem gamblers. The four part plan includes:

  1. a national voluntary pre-commitment programme;
  2. the availability of more and better targeted counselling and support services for problem gamblers;
  3. effective ‘self-exclusion’ programmes; and
  4. a stronger online gambling environment.
  1. A National Voluntary Pre-Commitment Programme

The Coalition supports a national voluntary pre-commitment programme for electronic gaming machines as part of a broader plan to assist problem gamblers. The Coalition has said that the Rudd-Gillard Government’s mandatory pre-commitment programme was “highly unlikely” to prevent problem gambling or ensure problem gamblers are helped.  The Coalition has promised to “put a stop to Labour’s trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the Australian Capital Territory” and has said it will “instead devote much needed resources to programmes that will actually help problem gamblers”.

  1. More and Better Targeted Counselling and Support Services

Based on the Productivity Commission’s findings that “the majority of problem gamblers satisfactorily manage their gambling following counselling/treatment”, the Coalition has committed to delivering more and better targeted counselling and support services to problem gamblers. To achieve this the Coalition will establish an industry advisory council that will be tasked with developing a detailed plan for the “roll-out” of these services. The Coalition will also encourage the gambling industry to enter into formal agreements with counselling services so that patrons have access to counselling “on demand”.

  1. Effective ‘Self-Exclusion’ Programmes

The Coalition has said it will work with stakeholders to develop a “minimum operating standard” for self-exclusion programmes. In addition, the Coalition will consider whether financial institutions might assist in restricting patrons on self-exclusion programmes from accessing cash at gambling venues and will develop an ATM self-exclusion programme for gaming venues.

  1. A Stronger Online Gambling Environment

The Coalition does not support proposals by the Rudd-Gillard Government to relax online gambling regulation and will investigate methods of strengthening the enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) to protect Australians from illegal online gambling operators.

In relation to the advertising and promotion of gambling in sport, the Coalition has said that it will legislate to control gambling advertising if current industry regulations prove ineffective.

ASSESSMENT

The Coalition’s policy gives little hope to casinos and gambling operators who may have been hopeful that there would be an easing of regulation following the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s final report on the IGA in March this year which mooted lifting the ban on in-play betting on the internet as well as permitting currently prohibited online gaming sites that offer poker tournament gaming services to obtain a licence on a 5 year trial basis.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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