Gambling Industry’s Influence on Australian Politics Under Scrutiny
In Australia, gambling has been identified as a public health risk, with billions of dollars lost to the activity annually. Before the pandemic, Australians spent an estimated $3.66 billion on online gambling, a figure that soared to $6.3 billion in 2022, marking a 70% increase.
Lawmakers in Australia have vowed to make meaningful changes to the gambling sector in order to protect consumers and reduce the amount of money lost to gambling. In New South Wales (NSW), for example, a ban on external gambling advertising was implemented in September, with the majority of operators complying with the new regulations.
The influence of the gambling industry on political decisions has come under scrutiny, with a recent report from the Australian Financial Review criticizing the industry’s impact on political parties through lobbying and donations. Researchers at the Grattan Institute highlighted the influence of lavish events and donations on political decisions, emphasizing that vulnerable groups are the losers in this game, as they are most affected by problem gambling and gambling harm.
The researchers called for more transparency in lobbying activities and urged for stricter conflict of interest rules for parliamentarians. They suggested that increased transparency could create political costs that would make politicians think twice about their relationships with the gambling industry.
While lobbying itself is not illegal, the researchers argued that disclosing more information and reducing the influence of the gambling sector through hefty donations could reduce the dependence of political parties on the industry. They also called for a limit on advertising expenses during political elections to mitigate the industry’s influence on political decisions.
In response to growing concern about problem gambling rates, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill to prohibit the use of credit cards for online gambling activities. The bill aims to address the increasing concern about problem gambling and its impact on individuals and communities. Ultimately, the push for greater regulation and transparency in the gambling sector reflects a broader effort to protect the public from the harmful effects of gambling.