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Will Australia broaden legal online gambling in 2021?

With the trend of legalisation of online gambling growing bigger and bigger, will Australia follow the lead of its counterparts in the UK and move forward to legalise it, or will it remain on the same page as South Africa?

2 Mar 2021 AUTHOR: Shenaly Amin

It’s probably too soon to tell, however some believe it would be a good decision, considering that it could help the economy recover in the wake of COVID-19. Given that the country already has the regulatory authority in place, it makes both regulatory and financial sense. 

The gambling sector is not immune from the effects of COVID-19. In some cases, the impact has been material, land-based gambling operators have had to close their doors to limit the spread of the virus, while the Australian licensed online gambling industry has been affected directly by the suspension of almost all sports and many racing events, which leaves them with limited gambling services for their customers. 

Whilst some data suggest that there has been a trend towards participation in online gambling, on the other hand, there is a distinct possibility that Australians have chosen to gamble online on unregulated sites.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre’s Gambling in Australia during COVID-19 surveyed more than 2,000 people who gambled from within Australia over June-July 2020. The survey revealed that one in three participants signed up for new betting accounts during COVID-19, and the number who gambled more than four times a week increased from 23% to 32%.

Increased gambling was found amongst young men and was often reported to be associated with being socially isolated, bored, or as a means of social connection with friends.

Researchers asked participants what they would like to see change about gambling in Australia, the main response was to see a reduction in gambling promotion and advertising – particularly related to sports advertising.

When looking at the Australian gambling industry, it looks like there are no signs of slowing down. Consumers are finding access to online gambling whether regulated or unregulated. 

A review of promotion and advertising of gambling, strengthening codes of conducts around gambling, restrictions on pokies venues and casinos, and the implementation of ‘self-exclusion programs’ seems like the next possible steps to reduce gambling-related harm in Australia. Only time will tell.