This research aimed to assess the application to the gambling industry, of Corporate Political Activity (CPA) analysis previously developed from public health research on tobacco industry interactions with political institutions and previously applied to the alcohol industry, but not the gambling industry.
A growing body of literature has confirmed how public interest outcomes are frequently opposed by vested interests. This research focused on gambling industry submissions to a 2013 Australian Parliamentary inquiry into sports betting advertising. Gambling advertising became highly controversial following deregulation of sports betting advertising in Australia subsequent to the 2008 Australian High Court Betfair challenge. The dramatic increase in gambling advertising during sporting event broadcasts at children’s viewing times and on new interactive technology, sparked public concerns. A series of national regulatory reviews followed and the gambling industry was actively involved in opposing further regulation.
The research used a corporate political activity (CPA) framework of analysis developed by UK tobacco public health researchers, which identified strategies and tactics used internationally by the tobacco industry, to broker pro-tobacco public policy outcomes. Testing the application of this CPA framework to gambling pro-industry strategies/tactics, this research focused on gambling industry submissions to the 2013 Australian Parliamentary Committee Inquiry.
Like the tobacco industry, the research found the gambling industry used identified strategies and tactics, some new tactics and a new strategy of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, promoting ‘responsible’ industry practices and pre-emptive establishment of internal ‘responsibility’ units/practices. Despite public concerns regarding sports betting advertising, the gambling industry reinforced individual choice/blame for harms and claimed it acted responsibly. It did this using strategies identified in the tobacco industry CPA framework: information strategy (and shaping the evidence base); financial incentive strategy; constituency building strategy; policy substitution strategy; legal strategy; and constituency fragmentation and destabilization strategy.
Similar to the CPA analysis applied to tobacco and alcohol industries, the research demonstrated the usefulness of the CPA taxonomy for analyzing and documenting pre-emptive industry policy strategies and tactics, exposing gambling industry efforts to maintain industry self-regulation via voluntary codes and avoid more government regulation. Cross-sectoral application of the framework signals great potential for use of CPA by policymakers and public health advocates as a tool in the analysis of corporate industry arguments/discourses.