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Communications minister Michelle Rowland
Communications minister Michelle Rowland says on gambling advertising: ‘We want to ensure our approach to reform is comprehensive and evidence-based.’ Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
Communications minister Michelle Rowland says on gambling advertising: ‘We want to ensure our approach to reform is comprehensive and evidence-based.’ Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Rowland warns ‘status quo isn’t good enough’ on gambling advertising

Communications minister says there is ‘serious’ community concern about ads as Zoe Daniel makes push for ban

The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, has warned the “status quo isn’t good enough” on gambling advertising as the independent Zoe Daniel and some Labor MPs push for a ban on the ads.

Daniel introduced to parliament on Monday a private member’s bill that would place an outright ban on gambling ads on radio, broadcast television, pay TV and their respective streaming services.

The independent MP told the lower house that it was “all very well” for the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, to say they’ve had enough, but it was time to “do something”.

The Labor MP Mike Freelander endorsed Daniel’s bill over the more limited proposal by Dutton to ban ads during sports matches and an hour either side of them.

Freelander told Guardian Australia that his view is gambling ads are “insidious and malignant” because they are “aimed at young adults and our kids”.

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“I don’t think we should be having them on our screens or on our radio. It’s a dangerous industry that has led to a lot of misery.

“The gambling industry has a lot to answer for – when it comes to regulating the ads, the stricter the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

Albanese has expressed a personal dislike for gambling advertising but the government says it is waiting for a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling and the effect of advertising on children before introducing its own reform.

Freelander defended the government’s pace of reform, insisting that Rowland “is determined to do it, but wants to get it right”.

Graham Perrett, the Labor member for Moreton, said he “shares” Daniel’s concern but added that “good legislation takes time”.

“I watch a lot of sport and I’ve seen a lot of gambling ads. I’ve got two kids,” Perrett said. “When gambling is more pervasive than the sport itself, it’s not a safe environment for families as it should be.”

Rowland said there was “serious concern about gambling ads across the community and it’s obvious the status quo isn’t good enough”.

“We want to ensure our approach to reform is comprehensive and evidence-based, and examines the multiple channels over which advertising is delivered including broadcast, social media and branding,” she told Guardian Australia.

“Labor – both in opposition and in government – has a strong record on minimising harms associated with online gambling.

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“I’m pleased that members of the crossbench are willing to work with the government to reduce gambling harm, including in relation to gambling advertising.”

The Labor member for Chisholm, Carina Garland, said her constituents tell her that “gambling generally and gambling advertising are more and more accessible to younger people”.

Garland expressed confidence in Rowland’s approach, which she said would aim to minimise harm and achieve “harmonisation” across platforms.

In February Rowland came under fire for accepting donations from gaming company Sportsbet before the 2022 election, although she insisted no rules were breached by doing so and the donations did not influence Labor’s “strong” position.

Television broadcasters have warned an ad ban could be expensive and imperil free sport on TV, but the idea is popular among voters.

Daniel’s bill was supported at a press conference by fellow independents Kate Chaney, Zali Steggall, Sophie Scamps, Kylea Tink, Monique Ryan and Allegra Spender.

Daniel told the House of Representatives that the gambling industry will resist broadcast changes because “like big tobacco” they are “making millions off the young, the poor and the desperate in our communities”.

“But with gambling ads at saturation levels and invading the minds of our young people in ever more insidious ways, to the extent that multis are now of more interest than the games themselves, we must act.”

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