Political flare ups are common in any government, especially in Australia where gambling is an extremely prominent source of revenue. Despite its munificence – or perhaps more appropriately, due to its munificence – government leaders are often split on the topic of regulations. As for Senator Nick Xenophon and Tasmania’s independent MP Andrew Wilkie, they are on a mission to see gambling laws made more restrictive.
They have two major goals running in their campaign right now related to gambling. First of all, they want poker machines to be restricted to max $1 bets. Secondly, they would like a ban invoked on sports betting advertisements during sporting events that may be viewed by children.
Sen. Xenophon is a longtime opponent of gambling, and he’s been working hard to tighten the reigns on poker machines and sports betting since he took office in 2008. His concerns about the proliferation of pokies – or slot machines, as they’re known throughout much of the world – is not necessarily unfounded.
Australia: Pokies Capital of the World
Australia is often considered the poker machine capital of the world. Reports show that the country has 5 times more pokies that the United States, per capita, and that Australians spend more on gambling, per capita, than any other country across the globe – 3x more than the UK and 2x more than the US.
Statistics show that Australians wagered near $11 billion on the pokies last year. In that 12 month period, revenue from gambling rose 100% more than the overall Australian economy. It’s numbers like those that have drive Sen. Xenophon and MP Wilkie to voice their concerns with renewed vehemence.
Turnbull Pushes Responsibility to States
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agrees that more restrictive laws should be imposed on gambling, but not to the same degree as his fellow constituents. He moved recently to impose a ban against online in-play betting. However, with strong opposition to change coming from the country’s influential clubs – namely Clubs Australia, which carries licenses for 6,500 social venues across the continent and relies quite heavily on that gambling revenue – Turnbull has acquiesced to little else, despite a former position of pro-reform.
Abandoning his former views, the Prime Minister would now prefer to leave the scripting of amended gambling laws in the hands of individual states and territories. According to Xenophon and Wilkie, he’s merely skirting the issue to keep his hands clean.
Plan to Restrict Sports Betting Ads
Sen. Xenophon expressed a strategy to reform the laws, especially as they pertain to sports betting advertisements, in parliament on Thursday.
“We will be planning a whole series of measures, both in the parliament and outside the parliament, to deal with the issue of gambling reform and, in particular, one issue that has resonated throughout the community and that is on the issue of sports betting advertising,” said Xenophon.
“So many parents have approached all of us to say they are appalled their kids are talking about – their seven and eight and ten-year-old children – are talking about the odds of a game rather than the game itself,” he said scornfully.
MP Wilkie was no less brutal in his verbal bashing of the federal government and “untrustworthy” regulators among the country’s states and territories, calling for parliament’s intervention to solve the problem.
“The case is compelling, and it is very, very sad that up until now, parliamentarians have not seemed to care enough about the hurt caused by problem gambling.” Wilkie added that, in his opinion, “parliamentarians have been happy to be completely out of step with the vast majority of the members of the community who want strong reform.”