Minister Rishworth interviewed on 2GB Afternoons


Topic: New gambling taglines

DEB KNIGHT, HOST: Now whoever backed Gold Trip to win the Melbourne Cup yesterday would have received a pretty nice return yesterday and I know a lot of people got on board, had a bit of a punt, a bit of a wager, whether it be the tab or a betting app or the office sweep, like I did. It's an annual tradition for the Melbourne Cup even for the amateurs who never wager on anything. People tend to have a flutter on Melbourne Cup day, but for a lot of Australians losing a bit of money on the Melbourne Cup is just the start of it. Because there is a real gambling problem in this country. The rate of problem gambling has doubled since 2011. And every year Australians lose around $25 billion to gambling. Every year. And a big part of the problem is the fact that the ads promoting gambling and betting are everywhere. I'm fully aware that they are on this station too. For the vast majority of people it's fun, a bit of harmless fun, but for some it can ruin their lives. And the Federal Government has started a crackdown on gambling advertising. They've issued online betting companies with new guidelines for their ads, including a complete overhaul of the ‘Gamble Responsibly’ tagline which is what you hear. It's a given that they've got to say gamble responsibly, but from April next year betting companies will need to use one of seven new taglines and they're much more direct. They include the tagline ‘Chances are you're about to lose’. And another one ‘You win some. You lose more’. So to find out more about this crackdown, Amanda Rishworth is the Social Services Minister – she's on the line from Canberra for us now. Minister welcome to Afternoons.


DEB KNIGHT: Why the change? Because for many years, the ‘Gamble Responsibly’ tagline has been heard at the end of every gambling ad on TV and radio?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we've been working with, and I must give credit to the states and territories and the Commonwealth, we've all been working together to implement what everyone agreed to, which is the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering. There's a number of measures in that. We've already seen the introduction of Activity Statements, which come up once a month to show how much people are winning and losing. But one of the elements that became very clear is that the ‘Gamble Responsibly’ tagline isn't necessarily working. Particularly for those that do have an issue with gambling and it is a problem for them. We've worked, as I said, with the states and territories around making sure that the taglines are actually embedded in research. That behavioural research and a whole lot of work has gone into developing these taglines which are much more effective in getting particularly those with a problem with gambling to actually think twice before they place the bet.

DEB KNIGHT: And there's seven of these taglines I mentioned a couple of them. ‘Chances are you're about to lose’ is one of them. Much more of a direct message. They'll have to rotate these taglines, will they?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There are some direct messages as I said, things like ‘Think Is this the bet you really want to place?’ ‘What are you really gambling with?’. They've been shown to actually get people with a problem with online wagering to think twice, but they will have to rotate as well to make sure that they're fresh and new. I think we've all heard ‘Gamble Responsibly’ over and over and over again. And it doesn't have the effect that it needs to do in minimising harm. So as I said, this is one of a number of steps that the states and territories the Commonwealth have agreed to take. The next step will be the introduction of a voluntary exclusion register called BetStop. That will be implemented at the end of November. There are a number of steps that we are taking to actually minimise the harm that online wagering does have. 

DEB KNIGHT: But if it's voluntary, is it going to be really effective?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of voluntary exclusion registers, they have worked in land based gambling, whether that is pokies, or other type of land based gambling there has been an example of where that has worked. And so, we believe this is one, none of these are panaceas to the problem. These are all steps in how we minimise online wagering harm. 

DEB KNIGHT: So if problem gambling is the problem that it is in this country, and if we have a real push to reduce the harm from gambling, why not ban the gambling ads altogether, which is what some states do already?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: My focus has been implementing the steps of the National Consumer Protection Framework that were outstanding. That's what our work has done. I would note that there is a House of Representatives Standing Committee that is looking broadly into what are the steps after the National Consumer Framework has implemented all its all its elements. They will be looking at advertising they'll be looking at a range of other areas to look at what other countries are doing and how we minimise harm.

DEB KNIGHT: So that feels like a very softly, softly approach here. And 70% of Australians that have been surveyed agree that they would like an outright ban.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, it's not a softly, softly approach. We’ve been in Government now for a little under five months. What we are doing is taking the steps that were agreed to with the states and territories and the Commonwealth. We’re implementing those steps with these new tag lines that actually work, with a voluntary exclusion register with activity statements and within a number of months, we've implemented measures that have evidence behind them. As I said, the House of Representatives Committee is taking the next step to look at all these different areas that it does require cooperation from the states and territories and the Commonwealth and we're working towards what will minimise harm for those that are that are wagering online.

DEB KNIGHT: Do you think that the gambling ads will ultimately be banned?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  I am not going to prejudge the House of Representatives Committee that is doing that work. They're collecting submissions now and I would encourage anyone that has a strong view on this to put in a submission. This is the time that we are collecting people's views. Looking at a range of different areas of harm minimisation, and we'll continue to do that.

DEB KNIGHT:  Lots of feedback coming through from our listeners on this. Trish has emailed me and it says on the email that you are absolutely bombarded on free to air TV every night around the news hours with the ad after ad for gambling. It's ridiculous, frustrating to see them. Jason says the gambling ads are out of control. But so is the amount of online sports gambling of companies that exist and he says the Government needs to put some more restrictions on the same way that they do with the amount of poker machines allowed to operate. What do you say to those listeners?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  Well, these are all things that will be explored in the House of Representatives Committee. They're all important. comments and contributions to make. Like I said, we have a National Consumer Protection Framework of measures that we also need to implement. They've all been agreed to, they need to be implemented. And during my short time as Social Services Minister, we are implementing the remaining measures.

DEB KNIGHT:  And what are the consequences for the wagering companies if they don't follow the guidelines? Are there penalties in place?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, they have to follow the guidelines. They are required to implement these changes and they are required to do that. 

DEB KNIGHT:  And if they don't? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's part of their licensing arrangements. 

DEB KNIGHT: So there will be consequences?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  They have to abide by these new regulations.

DEB KNIGHT:  And what about hiding it in fine print? Because that's the other concern that the wagering companies will just put it in very small print at the bottom or that they'll read them very, very quickly at the end of the ad. What will you do there?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  Within these guidelines there are some specific detail including down to what type of font, how large the font has to be in certain length of ads. It's not just the tagline. There's also a call to action. The colours are outlined, so there is, I haven't gotten into all that regulation, but that is all outlined to ensure that the message is properly conveyed to those receiving it, whether it's TV, radio, online, all the different mediums, social media, it's all covered. 

DEB KNIGHT:   And I mentioned in the intro, the fact that there's $25 million lost to gambling in Australia every year. A large proportion of that, the vast majority in fact, is through poker machines. Will you be looking at reforming the pokies?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  That is an issue for states and territories. I know there's a lot of work being done, whether it's in New South Wales, Tasmania, a range of places where state governments are taking action in order to address land based gambling.  My focus has been with states and territories on the online wagering in which the Commonwealth has responsibility to work with the states and territories. But I do know, action is being taken in a lot of states and territories around the country.

DEB KNIGHT:  And you would encourage the states to take further action?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  Anything that reduces harm is certainly the area I'm focused on. And I know that my state and territory colleagues are focused on the same thing.

DEB KNIGHT:  All right, Minister, thanks for your time.