Interactive gambling poses a 'significant risk'

AUSTRALIAN doctors have called on the Federal Government to ban gambling advertising during sports broadcasts to protect the nation's young people.

The Australian Medical Association this week released a position statement, The Health Effects of Problem Gambling, calling on the Federal Government to take a leadership role in developing an integrated national strategy to reduce problem gambling.

It came as the Senate unanimously backed a Greens motion to establish an inquiry into the impact of advertising and promotion of gambling on sport.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said Australia was at risk of creating a generation of problem gamblers.

"The increased promotion of gambling in sport also has a corrosive influence on our kids and they are finding it hard to know where sport ends and gambling begins," Senator Di Natale said.

"You can't watch a sporting event with your kids without being bombarded by betting odds and gambling adds."

It is the threat posed to young people that is of most concern to the AMA, which points to research showing a rapid rise in problem gambling among young men driven by dramatic growth in online sports betting.

AMA president Steve Hambleton said while poker machines remained the greatest source of harm, the rapid growth of interactive gambling, such as online sports betting, mobile apps and gambling-themed games on social media websites, posed a significant risk, particularly to young people.

"Online sports betting is Australia's fastest growing form of gambling and has been associated with a rapid escalation in young males seeking treatment for problem gambling," Dr Hambleton said,

The AMA wants the Federal Government to establish an independent gambling regulator, as well as working with state and territory governments to reduce their reliance on gambling revenue.

"This could be achieved by modifying the funding formula used by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, with the allocation of funding linked into specific measures ... relating to reduction in gambling revenue," the statement reads.

The AMA also argues regulations are needed to govern marketing associated with gambling, including bans on advertising during sport broadcasts, sports sponsorship by the gambling industry and promotions and inducements targeting children, young people and at-risk groups.

Without urgent action the problem will only get worse, the AMA argues.

Dr Hambleton made the point that for every problem gambler, up to 10 other people - family, friends, workmates and employers - felt the effects, in strained relationships, financial problems, reduced productivity, depression and substance abuse.

Given an estimated 2.5% of Australians had either a moderate or severe gambling problem, Dr Hambleton said up to five million Australians felt the health, social and financial impacts.

He said problem gamblers saw their GP more often than the average and suffered a range of stress-related conditions including hypertension, insomnia, stomach upsets, headaches and depression.

The AMA position statement also highlights the fact the adverse consequences of problem gambling are most felt by low socio-economic people and communities, those with poor literacy, people with pre-existing mental problems and people living in regions or metropolitan suburbs with high levels of unemployment and economic hardship.

Should gambling ads be banned during sport broadcasts?

This poll ended on 08 March 2013.

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