Mr Cowling expressed concern at the increase in gambling expenditure, with the latest Australian Gambling Statistics showing that the Australian population gambled nearly $23 billion in 2014-15.
“The Commonwealth and State Governments need to take stronger action to reduce the terrible harms caused by problem gambling.
“While we understand that not all gambling is problem gambling, we are deeply concerned at the overall increase in gambling expenditure and the impact on vulnerable members of the community.
“UnitingCare Australia operates support services to help people experiencing problem gambling. With poker machine expenditure increasing by nearly five per cent and sports betting increasing by more than 30 per cent, a growth in problem gambling is certain,” said Mr Cowling.
Mr Cowling said UnitingCare Australia supports moves by Senator Nick Xenophon and his team, and Independent Andrew Wilkie, to introduce legislative measures to limit the harms of problem gambling.
“Poker machine gambling is by far the biggest contributor to gambling harm, with more than $11.5 billion gambled on the pokies in 2014-15. Mandatory pre-commitment schemes and measures to limit bet sizes and overall losses will help protect those who experience problems in controlling their gambling expenditure, without adversely impacting those who do not experience such problems,” said Mr Cowling.
Mr Cowling also called for tougher action in relation to online gambling, particularly online sports gambling.
“Online sports betting is becoming increasingly popular, particularly amongst younger people. We endorse Senator Xenophon’s push for greater safe-guards including banning credit betting and the predatory offers of credit and prohibiting ‘ball-by-ball’ micro-betting.
“Urgent action is also required to outlaw the constant barrage of gambling advertisements broadcast during sporting games. These advertisements are seen and absorbed by many young people, and help to normalise gambling.
“Young people are particularly susceptible to this type of marketing and the advertising loop-hole should be closed and permanently sealed,” said Mr Cowling.
Mr Cowling said national and international research, and the experience of UnitingCare support agencies, demonstrated that problem gambling harms gamblers and their families, with negative financial, employment, psychological and physical consequences.
(Australian Gambling Statistics, 32nd edition, Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, Queensland Treasury)