Gambling participation in Australia is high by international standards (Abbott & Volberg, 1999), with rapid growth and expansion occurring in the 1990s. By the decades end, the Productivity Commission Report (1999) concluded that Australians were the heaviest gamblers in the world: with only one percent of the worlds population, we had 20 percent of its gambling machines. While the majority of individuals gamble occasionally and for fun, a minority are unable or unwilling to control their gambling, and may consequently experience mental, social, legal and/or health difficulties. The term problem gambling denotes gambling that gives rise to harm to the individual player, and/or to his or her family, and may extend into the community (AIGR 1997, 2). According to Banks (2002), severe and moderate problem gambling affects 2.1% of Australians, and each case of problem gambling has effects on five other people (Productivity Commission 1999; Hing, 2005).
As a consequence of its rapid growth and potential for individual and community harm, public concern about gambling has increased, fuelling the ongoing debate about whether its costs outweigh the benefits. However, as academic commentaries make clear, there is no simple policy solution, because the impact of gambling varies across individuals and localities requiring many controversial value judgments to be made. Moreover, following the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s, the will and capacity of state governments to intervene via command and control regulation has decreased, even as their dependence on gambling revenues has grown, giving rise to the problem of regulatory capture on the one hand and a competitive race to the bottom for gambling investment on the other. With gambling set to become a globalised industry via the internet, and with Australian states increasingly unwilling and unable to regulate gambling in the public interest, individuals and groups are exploring private governance alternatives. This study examines the rise and structure of private governance in the Australian gambling industry, focussing specifically on the use of voluntary codes of conduct.
Contact: Fred Gale
Authorised by the Interim Head of School, Social Sciences
16 August, 2011