New advertising codes came into effect on 30 March 2018, extending the existing ban on betting advertising during live sporting events broadcast between 5 am and 8.30 pm to online service providers. These changes were not unexpected, but will have a significant effect on online service providers and betting operators.

The tightening grip

Reforms have been on the agenda for some time. In May 2017, the Government announced its intention to impose additional restrictions on betting advertising during live coverage of sporting events screened on broadcast, subscription and online platforms. These new restrictions will be applied to broadcasting services regulated under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) via amendments to relevant industry codes of practice.

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Online Content Bill) establishes a legislative framework that extends these restrictions to "online content services". The Online Content Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 28 March 2018 and was assented to by the Governor-General on 11 April 2018.Community concerns about advertising gambling during live sports at times that children are likely to be watching prompted the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to approve and register new industry codes, which came into effect on 30 March 2018. The new codes supplement the existing betting regulations and will ban betting advertising during the broadcast of live sporting events between 5 am and 8.30 pm—beginning five minutes before the start of the sporting event until five minutes after the conclusion of the event.

All bets are off

The Online Content Bill will add Schedule 8 to the BSA, which allows ACMA to extend the same restrictions to online content service providers. The explanatory memorandum to the Bill anticipates that investigations of potential breaches of the online content service provider rules will be largely driven by consumer complaints. Part 5 of the new Schedule 8 (in conjunction with existing BSA provisions) sets out the mechanisms that may be used to enforce compliance with the online content service provider rules. Most notably:

  • ACMA may give a remedial direction to an online content service provider that requires the provider to "take specific action directed towards ensuring that the provider does not contravene the online content service provider rules", and
  • if an online content service provider contravenes the remedial direction, it may be liable to pay a civil penalty up to $420,000 if the provider is a body corporate and $84,000 if the provider is not a body corporate.

Not worth the gamble

Although the online content service providers are liable for the penalties, these restrictions are expected to have a significant impact on the ability of betting operators to advertise their services.

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