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Modernising harm prevention for gambling in Australia: international lessons for public health policy and improved regulation of gambling

Gambling Internet gambling Electronic gambling machines Gambling harm minimisation Public health Australia

Australia leads the world in per capita gambling losses. Harms experienced by gambling are substantial and can be severe. I undertook a Churchill Fellowship to investigate international lessons for public health policy and improved gambling regulation. The aim was to understand measures that had been introduced in other jurisdictions to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm, as well as factors that enabled the introduction of these measures. The study involved key informant interviews with gambling regulators, consumer advocates and affected others, politicians, academics and operators, in eleven cities across seven countries (France, England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland). I discussed ways to develop global responses to the public health challenge of gambling with UNESCO (Paris) and WHO (Geneva). I also provided presentations outlining recent research from Australia to audiences in four countries.

This report provides a summary of key public health lessons that could be considered to improve gambling regulation in Australia. Additional findings will be detailed in a future peer reviewed manuscript.

Key findings:

  • The critical value of registered gambling (aka ‘universal identification’) for the successful deployment of population level harm prevention measures.
  • The need for effective use of the media to facilitate public discussion of the nature and magnitude of gambling-related harm;
  • The value in harnessing political interest in reform from across the political spectrum, perhaps by establishing a parliamentary group or groups on gambling (noting Australia’s Federal system);
  • Improving resources and powers for regulators to effectively monitor and respond to predatory gambling practices;
  • Establishing a national gambling strategy and national gambling reporting system;
  • The potential importance of deploying more sophisticated disruption strategies to protect consumers from unlicensed online gambling providers;
  • Establishing and resourcing a national regulator to oversee reformed and nationally consistent regulatory measures, and to ensure fair gambling rules, including for those gamblers who experience relative success in wagering or other gambling modes.
  • Establishing a system that avoids dependence on gambling revenue, particularly avoiding direct funding of treatment, research and other ‘good causes’, and which reduces dependence by states on gambling revenues;
  • Excluding the influence of the gambling industry from policy development and research.

A number of recommendations have been provided that might be considered in the Australian context.

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