Australian Coronavirus Gambling Rise Needs Context Say RWA
Responsible Wagering Australia urges the public to take claims that gambling rates soared in the country during the pandemic into context. The independent body claims reports of a big rise in activity were based on misconstrued data.
Media reports that Australian gambling rates rose ‘alarmingly’ during the lockdown, caused by the coronavirus, are based on flawed consumer spending figures claim the RWA. Newspaper and online articles claim an online betting surge of 67% compared to an average week before the pandemic.
Analytics consultancy firm AlphaBeta collated the data used in the reports, based on information provided by credit firm Illion. The Sydney Morning Herald was among the publishers who wrote editorial content based on the statistics with Angus Thompson writing in April that lockdown had “created a perform storm for harmful and addictive behaviours”.
Thompson’s article quoted Associate Professor Charles Livingstone, from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine who stated that poker machine players were likely to migrate online. He said players, who spend $15 billion a year in Australia, could turn to online offerings that replicate the experience of the poker machines.
However, RWA’s CEO Brent Jackson said this was sensational reporting, and there were special circumstances behind the rise, saying, “historical consumer credit data is being used to create alarmist reports that gambling has surged during the Covid-19 crisis.” Jackson continued:
Without context, people assume that increases in online gambling during Covid-19 automatically means an increase in overall gambling activity. This isn’t the industry experience, and credible data sources aren’t suggesting that either.– Brent Jackson, RWA CEO
The RWA CEO explained that while the number of people using online gambling products had increased, this increase did not represent non-gamblers using betting products but rather traditional bricks and mortar customers using online services. Jackson said this trend was common, highlighting how other industries, such as retail, had also seen a shift to online.
Jackson argued that the press and the public should be more concerned and vocal about the threat posed by unlicensed overseas betting sites which have seen a surge of uptake from Australian residents. He said, “our concern is that a lot of the growth in online gambling has gone to unlicensed overseas betting websites that offer no consumer protections at all.” He continued:
“While it’s against the law for businesses to provide these betting games to the Australian market, it isn’t actually illegal for Australians to access them, and this puts consumers, including children and vulnerable people, at major risk.”
“The growth of smartphones combined with the high number of illegal overseas gambling websites targeting Australians 24/7 means that many people are walking around with an unlicensed casino in their pocket.” Australia does have laws that should prevent offshore websites from offering gambling products.
The Interactive Gambling Act was passed into law in 2001 was supposed to prevent companies from providing online gambling services to Australian residents, establish a system to curb online gambling services, based offshore or onshore, that target Australian residents and prevent gambling businesses from advertising their products and services in Australia The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act of 2017 attempted to strengthen these regulations after complaints from licenced operators that the current penalties were not effective enough.