Melbourne Cup sparks calls for gambling reform
Take a stand against ‘predatory and harmful’ industry, urges Wesley Mission
With at least one child in every high school classroom suffering or at risk from harm through their own gambling, and with sports betting companies set to rake it in with today’s Melbourne Cup, the head of Wesley Mission is calling on the government and Christians to help reform sports betting.
Rev. Stu Cameron, Wesley Mission CEO and leading gambling reform advocate, says the government continues to tinker around the edges of reform, ignoring the unanimously recommended, comprehensive online gambling advertising ban. 
“To date, it has been an exercise in virtue signalling. Our TV screens and social media platforms are awash with online sports betting ads. We have warnings at the end of ads. Let’s not have the warnings. Let’s not have the ads at all.”
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Christians should be extremely wary of an industry this “calculated”, “predatory”, “dangerous” and “harmful”.
Jim Wackett, Wesley Mission’s General Manager, acknowledges that betting on events like the Melbourne Cup may seem harmless on the surface. But, Wackett tells Eternity, it’s a sort of “gateway drug” for many first-time gamblers, with the gambling industry reaching out to thousands of potential newcomers.
More than 250 million dollars is spent each year on sports betting advertising in Australia by an estimated 77 companies and 140 websites – a scenario Cameron likens to “the wild west”.
The advertising spend generates billions of revenue dollars for the companies, while simultaneously (and disturbingly) a whole generation – mostly young people – are being groomed and then addicted to gambling through these online sports betting applications.
“There’ll be many hundreds of people for whom [the Melbourne Cup] is their first foray into gambling, and it’s a foray that will set them on a trajectory that will be life-destroying,” Wackett laments. He says Christians should be extremely wary of an industry this “calculated”, “predatory”, “dangerous” and “harmful to individuals, families and communities”. Ultimately, Wackett notes, a stand against predatory practices is a stand against spiritual powers and principalities with dark intentions.
“We know that harmful industries spend a fortune on advertising because it works.” – Rev. Stu Cameron
“Regulations have not kept up,” Cameron warns. “It is desperately needed. The Standing Committee unanimously tabled 31 recommendations in parliament in June this year. Those recommendations need to be addressed by the Albanese government. They need to be adopted in full.”
“We know that harmful industries spend a fortune on advertising because it works. We must, as we so successfully have done with tobacco ads, protect our children and those targeted by this pernicious industry.
“So, we are calling on the Albanese government, with a sense of urgency and immediacy, to adopt those 31 recommendations, to implement and execute them, for the benefits of Australians now and for the generations into the future.”
“I’m optimistic about the changing attitutes more broadly in Australian society towards gambling and gambling harm.” – Jim Wackett, General Manager of Wesley Mission
In the meantime, today’s Melbourne Cup may be an opportunity for Christians to have (gracious) conversations about the evils of preying on the vulnerable. In the process, Wackett hopes there will be opportunities to share about the hope we have in Jesus.
These conversations might be more welcome than ever. “I’m optimistic about the changing attitutes more broadly in Australian society towards gambling and gambling harm,” Wackett says. With greater awareness of the tactics involved in gambling, and with greater outrage at the devastation caused by the lack of substantial reform, there is momentum for effective change.
“Over the last decade the church has had a reputation for just looking after its own interests,” Wackett notes, “whereas traditionally, as a movement in society, we’ve been very outward-looking to identify societal problems and to seek reforms – not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of society as a whole. It’s an outworking of the love we’ve received, and the love we want to share as a result.”
For support, visit GambleAware or call their helpline at 1800 858 858.
For help blocking yourself from gambling online, visit BetStop – the National Self-Exclusion Register™.
 The ban proposed by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in their report “You Win Some, You Lose More” – June 2023.