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Australian gambling regulator the ACMA has quite the reputation. What caused a great casino blunder on live TV?

Australia TV networks censured for casino blunder

Australian gambling regulator the ACMA has quite the reputation in the land Down Under. This is a body that has the power to control which websites Australians can and cannot access. This year, it has dished out a 100 million dollar fine and threatened to close two of Australia’s biggest casinos for license infringements. Now it has penalized two of Australia’s leading TV networks for airing gambling-related advertisements outside permitted times. 

sports betting

Sports betting ads 

Both Seven and Nine were found to have broadcast sports betting promotions during coverage of major sporting events outside permitted slots. Specifically, Seven showed 49 such ads during its coverage of the 2021 Olympics. Meanwhile, Nine played a betting advertisement during last October’s National Rugby League Grand Final.

Australia is one of the biggest gambling markets in the world, but the ACMA has extremely strict rules relating to consumer protection. As far as TV advertising is concerned, commercials may only be shown after the 8:30PM watershed, and even then, only in specific approved slots. Recently reappointed ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin remarked that many people watch major sporting events like these as families and that exposing youngsters to these ads might “normalize gambling as part of sport.” 

Strict gambling regulation

Channel Seven and Channel Nine are just the latest in a long succession of businesses and organizations to find themselves in the ACMA’s crosshairs. Earlier this year, the Crown Casino in Perth faced a damning investigation report citing a range of breaches to Australia’s casino licensing rules and detailing 49 corrective actions. This was followed in October by the Star Casino in Sydney being fined $100 million and having its license revoked. 

Then there is the ACMA’s ongoing battle with the online casino industry. Australian online casino real money gambling providers are in huge demand Down Under, and are attracting more visitors than ever before. In fact, more than one in ten Australians gamble online. However, as Australia itself has no legal framework for online casinos, all these providers are based overseas. The ACMA has no jurisdiction over these sites and cannot stop Australians from visiting them. So it is we see the almost comical spectacle of blocking orders being issued to local internet service providers. So far, more than 350 such orders have been issued. However, the global iGaming market continues to grow, so more providers simply replace them. 

casino apps

What next for Channels Seven and Nine?

The TV networks have avoided fines but have been warned that any future infringements will be met with greater severity. Both networks have agreed to cooperate with the ACMA to implement strengthened controls and to retrain staff, not only on the timing of advertisements but on their acceptable content. 

This latter follows controversy earlier this year over an ad broadcast for Unibet. Regulators didn’t see the funny side of its tongue in cheek tagline and pulled the ad, also fining the advertiser $26,500. 

Meanwhile, Australians continue to indulge their gambling hobby undeterred. Last year, gambling spend was more than $1,200 per capita, around twice that spent by any other nationality. 

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