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Australian academics call for national gambling regulator

Suggestions by problem gambling researchers that the federal government in Australia appoint a national gambling regulator in place of state regulators are currently achieving wide coverage in the mainstream media Downunder. Academics Linda Hancock and Michael O'Neil appear to have the support of anti-gambling campaigner Senator Nick Xenophon in their suggestion that individual states and territories have failed to curtail problem gambling, because they rely on the industry for revenue.

Australia should establish a national gambling regulator that would set poker machine (slots) quotas, bet limits and other initiatives, the two academics claim.

The reports do not specifically address the online gambling element in the national gambling mix, but the attitude toward this sector would presumably not be friendly.

Hancock and O'Neil suggest a national not-for-profit lottery be created to wean the states off the billions of dollars' worth of poker machine revenue they receive each year.

This would be augmented by money from a 2% levy on the gambling industry, which the report estimates would generate an extra A$378 million annually.

Without providing national detailed statistics, Hancock, an associate professor at Deakin University, claimed that problem gambling is a serious health risk.

"This whole approach ... needs to be a central plank in the Rudd government's health plan," she told reporters in Canberra.

"Where is the preventative health? In Victoria, one in five suicide attempts presenting to emergency services at The Albert hospital (are) gambling-related."

Xenophon, speaking in support of the academics, said hundreds of thousands of Australians were adversely impacted by gambling each year.

"State governments are the number one jackpot junkies. They can't be trusted when it comes to gambling regulation," he said, calling on the government to release, and act upon, the Productivity Commission's report on gambling.

The draft report recommends pokie bets be restricted to $1 per play, and cash withdrawal limits should be placed on ATMs located near the machines.

The draft report of the Commission also recommended that online gambling operators be regulated.

Hancock and O'Neil's research shows that Australians lost A$18 billion a year on gambling, and about 15% of Australians gambled regularly, excluding games like Lotto and scratch cards.

About 10% of regular gamblers are problem gamblers the duo claim - a figure considerably higher than the global average assessed by other surveys. Of these problem gamblers, an estimated 125,000 have serious problems and 165,000 are considered to be at moderate risk.

Source: InfoPowa News

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