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Politicians Under Fire Down Under For Accepting Donations From Gambling Companies

How much is too much for politicians to accept when it could influence their vote? Australian donations by gambling companies are stacking up.

Hajra Shannon
Mar 07, 20236 Shares536 Views
Thought that the politicians Down Under were a less shady bunch than the ones we have here? You might like to rethink that premise. The latest news from one of the biggest mastheads in the country, The Sydney Morning Herald, has just dropped a bombshell. In their expose, titled ‘Dark money’ and gambling companies flood political donations, reporter David Crowe dives into the murky depths of payments to Australian political partiesby online gambling companies. And how much have they donated? A total of more than $9 million over the past two decades.

A gambling country

Despite the relative lack of casinos in the land - just 20 casinos at last count, with the largest being Crown Casino Melbourne - Aussies spent a huge amount on gambling. In fact, the figures are thought to be the highest in the world per capita.
It is believed that Australians gamble away over $2 billion on no deposit bonuses and online casinos each year. Indeed, a very sobering statistic if there ever was one. The sector has been booming ever since Crown and The Star have dealt with thorough audits and inspections from regulators. This included requests for their casino licenses to be revoked. Thus, it is unsurprising why many punters flock to accredited online casinos - many of which cataloged on Even if it’s ultimately a hobby where the money’s used for pure entertainment, it is better to be safe than sorry, and sign up with a fully-authorized and trustworthy provider.
But it’s not just the online casino landscape that’s booming. Sports betting is a huge industry, with Aussies faced with a plethora of choices in sportsbook providers and targeted advertising aplenty.
Who’s donating to the politicians?
When we are talking about $9 million over 20 years, that’s a total of $450,000 per year. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot in this day and age, but it’s certainly not chump change, either. You might also like to put it in this context: How much could $450,000 buy in 2003 vs now?
You might also like to put it in the context of Sportsbet’s 2022 donations, which totalled over $278,000 for the year. Sportsbet is a large sportsbook company in Australia that appears to be going from strength to strength within the market.
The same newspaper also revealed that Communications Minister Michelle Rowland received $19,000 of donations from Sportsbet in the days before the 2022 election, at a time when she was the Shadow Minister for online gaming. While the donation was disclosed by the Australian Electoral Commission, it was not disclosed by Labor NSW as the sum came in under the reportable threshold levels. The donations came at a time when Responsible Wagering Australia, a gambling industry advocacy group, were lobbying Rowland to continue to allow credit cards in online gambling deposits. Following the reports, the opposition has called on Michelle to resign, citing conflicts of interest and a deliberate acceptance of monies she knew was just under reportable thresholds, while the rest was spent on events for the Minister.

Is it a storm in a teacup?

Any industry where money is donated by companies you could draw an obvious tie to political influence should be taken seriously. The Australian Center for Public Integrityhas noted that there has been a distinct rise in donations recently to political parties by organisations within the gambling industry. This is not surprising, given the huge amounts gambled by the Australian public, which in turn leads to record profits by gambling companies, but wider gambling-related harm, and thus more scrutiny and tightening of gambling regulations - unless politicians can be swayed otherwise.
Influencing political parties cannot be conducted via “bribe-like” tactics in a country such as Australia, but that’s not to say that it definitely doesn’t happen. In any given situation, various people and organisations will try and obtain more money and/or power, and plenty will attempt to use dirty tactics to do so, even if they do fall just within the law or have zero influence in the long run.

Or maybe it’s a drop in the ocean?

The Sydney Morning Herald has done their due diligence and also reports a staggering 33% rise of “dark money” in political donations, totalling $91.3 million in 2022. The so-called dark money is those donations that come from sources that go undisclosed. So is $9 million over 20 years really that much versus 10 times that amount in one year alone? No, but it’s highly industry-specific and it’s ramped up to become a newsworthy story. Something to ponder about in your next shower thoughts and wonder if it’s the same case over here, too.
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