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The risky business of online gambling

Shane Lucas

Foundation CEO Shane Lucas

The increasing opportunities for gambling harm through online wagering have led to the Foundation releasing an important discussion paper - Gambling harm and the online gambling environment.

The paper examines the expansion of gambling activities across platforms and technologies, the effects on harm and the risk of harm, and the resulting need to strengthen consumer protections.

Drawing on publicly available Foundation-funded and other academic studies, market research and public discourse, as well as policy and regulatory responses such as the National Consumer Protection Framework, the paper identifies issues needing attention in the online gambling environment in order to strengthen efforts to prevent and reduce gambling harm.

Persuasive offering of gambling products

Wagering – betting on races, sports and novelty events – is now largely conducted online. The move began with the introduction of smart devices and has continued at pace since 2008. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy periods of lockdown have significantly increased the proportion of sports bettors who gamble online.

Consumers are persuasively offered gambling products via technologies that facilitate a direct and largely unmoderated transaction between the provider and the consumer. The ease of access to these products, together with inducements, complex offers and the availability of credit facilitates risky betting and harmful spending.

Consumers are persuasively offered gambling products via technologies…

In addition, the paper notes evidence that many interactive online games, including those desired and easily accessed by children, simulate gambling or contain chance-based characteristics that replicate features associated with gambling harm. These products do not fit into current legal definitions of gambling.

Underlying all these issues is the turbo-charged world of gambling advertising saturating the market across all media. It’s inescapable and pervasive, and it “normalises” gambling for adults and children alike. The Foundation works with communities and over 700 elite and community sporting clubs to push back against gambling advertising through programs such as Love the Game.

In this edition of Inside gambling, we also meet one community sporting club that actively encourages young players to keep their eyes on the ball and celebrate the pure and simple love of sport.

And we discuss cashless gambling – a hot topic in Australia right now – and so-called ‘dark marketing’, an advertising tactic that poses a significant risk to those vulnerable to gambling harm, especially young people, as it reaches into our digital worlds.

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