Online gambling regulator urgently needed

tennis ballSport and online gambling are now so intrinsically linked that the integrity of sports is under extreme pressure and the human toll is rising.

Last night’s ABC story on Four Corners about online sports betting, with a focus on tennis, again highlights the very real issues that we now confront. According to a law enforcement officer quoted on the program: “Corruption in sport is one of the fastest growing organised crime types in the world.”

The gambling industry is estimated to generate more than a trillion dollars a year. Unfortunately, it is often the most vulnerable in society who contribute to this turnover. In recent years, online gambling sites have made betting even more accessible.

“In addition to the rapid acceleration of availability of online gambling and the range of ‘events’ to be gambled on, it is estimated that about 90 per cent of online gambling is through illegal gambling providers, many operating on the ‘dark web’ and through ‘black markets’” Mark Henley, Manager of Advocacy for Uniting Communities, said .

Dr Mark Zirnsak is the director of the synod’s Justice and International Mission unit and heads up the Australian churches gambling taskforce. He said the threat of online gambling must become a priority for the federal government.

“The government needs to establish a national online gambling regulator to reign in the threat of gambling harm to individuals, their families and our sporting codes,” Dr Zirnsak said.

“The federal government needs to crack down on the saturation and predatory marketing activities of online betting companies and put an end to credit betting. It is bad enough that people can lose everything they have with online gambling, credit betting means they can end up in crippling debts even after losing everything.”

Dr Zirnsak said the Australian government needs to discuss online gambling regulation with other nations and ensure that protocols are in place to share information and to establish an international set of consumer protections that are applied globally.

The platform for online sports betting is the smart phone: 3.2 billion people are now connected to the internet. By last year’s end there were more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions globally. Most people on planet Earth now carry a 24/7 casino in their pocket. Online betting companies have also worked very hard to significantly increase the number of ‘events’ that can be gambled on during any sporting contest, so that it is possible to bet, in real-time, on just about every serve, ball bowled or goal attempt during a game.

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