Gambling: Self-regulatory AANA code kicks in

By Arvind Hickman and Lindsay Bennett | 4 July 2016

Last week, AdNews began a three-part series that explores gambling advertising, the fastest-growing category in Australia. Today, we focus on the pros and cons of a new advertising code and question whether state regulation for the gambling sector is sufficient.

The AANA's new wagering code comes into play this month and is the first time there has been a specific code to provide guidance on content for the category, which recognises that it has a unique set of circumstances, much like alcohol advertising.

Until now, regulation has been under the broader advertising code.

While opponents, including Tabcorp, have been vocal in criticising the code for being self-regulatory, and therefore, lacking teeth, Rhiannon McMahon, a Sportsbet media executive who was instrumental in helping shape the code, told AdNews this means it can be amended more swiftly than if it were enshrined in law.

The argument for the recently introduced AANA code on wagering is that it offers a framework to ensure ads are appropriate and provides an outlet (the ASB) for the communuty to vent any concerns they have.

"We understand people are talking about it, some politicians have concerns and some people in the media have concerns," McMahon said.

"We think it's enough to look at what's happening - we're a relatively new category to advertising so we are trying to do the right thing."

Meanwhile, the AANA told AdNews only 5% of ad complaints refer to wagering spots and officials aren't convinced the code will go far enough.

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) head of knowledge and information Tony Phillips says the code “lacks teeth”, adding self-regulatory codes often lack the ability to sanction anyone who breaks them.

Online gambling has changed the game in terms of gambling being regulated at a state level, as is currently the case, which is why VRGF would like to see national regulation come in to play.

“Because of the internet, it’s not like 25 years ago when the state government controlled the gambling institutions in its state," Phillips said. "The state government is being undermined by the internet.

“The VRGF is committed to getting a national regulation code, but in the mean time we thought a self-regulatory code was going to have real problems.”

The solution

Phillips said the AANA code is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be a national regulator to harmonise gambling regulations across every state. At present, state authorities punish gambling companies for breaching marketing rules. For example, last week UBet was convicted for illegal advertising in NSW.

“It's definitely growing faster than any other forms of betting,” Phillips said. "The evidence is not yet in on how harmful it is compared to other types of betting but it clearly has a number of factors that would raise red flags.”

It is moving so quickly, the government and independent bodies are struggling to keep up.

The VRGF is calling for the implementation of national regulator to enforce gambling legislation across Australia.

“There needs to be consistent standards that are being upheld and agreed on by the different governments that control it," Phillips said.

“What form that would take, whether it would be at Commonwealth Government level or whether it's an alignment of the different rules in each state, that would be better than what we currently have.”

Tomorrow, we take a look at why the Western Bulldogs AFL club decided to stop accepting sponsorship from betting agencies, as well as concerns about whether gambling marketing is following a similar path to tobacco.

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