Sporting codes’ gambling revenue is not sacrosanct. A business model that relies on causing harm must end

I love sport. I love football. I grew up at football grounds first when my dad played for the Bombers, and after that, in Tassie where he played and coached for many years.

My aim is to protect sport, and the Australian sporting culture with it.

I therefore applaud the watershed parliamentary report recommending ads for online gambling be banned acrossall media and at all times within three years.

The report is blunt, direct and has not been swayed by industry players dependent on a flawed business model that targets young and vulnerable people for profit.

Most importantly, the recommendations of this multi-partisan committee are unanimous.

The broadcast TV lobby group, Free TV, arrogantly flipped the bird at community concern during submissions to the inquiry, suggesting policy can’t be made based on the “vibe”. In doing so, it conveniently ignored reams of evidence about the cost of gambling to our communities and its connection to saturation gambling ads.

Most emblematic is the fact that the fastest growing cohort of gamblers is young men aged 18-24, arguably the first cohort to grow up bombarded with gambling advertisements.

It is now up to backbenchers within the major parties to ensure there is no backsliding in the face of the committee’s disturbing findings.

The evidence is that gambling addiction increases the risk of bankruptcy, domestic violence and suicide.

The social cost of gambling in Victoria alone has been estimated at $7bn a year. Family and relationship problems were the highest cost, followed by emotional and psychological issues, including distress, depression, suicide, and violence. Financial harm was only the third highest cost.

This is just one reminder of the urgency of attacking this issue at its root.

If tax changes and such are required to mitigate the effect on the sports and the broadcasters, that should be looked at. However, I do not have a great deal of sympathy for the sporting codes, the broadcasters or the gambling companies.

Any argument that gambling revenue supports sport and is therefore sacrosanct does not stack up. A business model that relies on causing harm to people, especially children, by exploiting their love of sport, is flawed. It’s also the case that gambling on sport outside horse racing and the TAB has only been legal in Australia since 1993, so it hasn’t always been this way. There is still time to reverse course.

And the kids do not like it either.

In one study, three quarters of young people agreed that sporting codes should do more to prevent them from being exposed to sport-related gambling advertising.

We are failing these children if we do not act.

I have had youth football officials in my electorate of Goldstein tell me directly that they know the boys in their junior teams are betting on gambling apps on their phones.


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