Australia will ban gambling advertisements from TV, radio and the Internet during live sporting events broadcast before 8:30 p.m., Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
The restrictions are part of an overhaul of the rules governing the country's broadcasting industry, which will see a cut in annual fees paid by the main TV networks and looser restrictions on media ownership.
Turnbull told reporters in New York that with the exception of horse racing, there will be "no more gambling ads" before 8.30 p.m., closing a long-established exemption granted to the industry.
The decision will be closely scrutinized by the nation's sports teams and leagues, which have extensive sponsorship deals with the betting industry. The National Rugby League, for example, has a A$60 million ($44 million) deal with Sportsbet. Companies that operate sports betting agencies in Australia include Bet 365 Group, Tabcorp Holdings, Ladbrokes Plc, Crown Resorts Ltd. and William Hill Plc.
Australia is the biggest gambling nation in the world on a per capita basis, spending $761 per head in 2015, ahead of Hong Kong and Finland, according to U.K.-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants. The U.S., home to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, is seventh.
The new restrictions are part of a wider broadcasting reform package, to be announced in the budget next week. It will include replacing free-to-air license fees with new annual spectrum fees and changes to media ownership laws, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in an emailed statement.
Current restrictions that stop any person controlling commercial TV licenses reaching more than 75 percent of the Australian population or any single company controlling more than two of three radio, television or newspapers in a single city will also be scrapped. These changes to media laws were first mooted in March 2016 but struggled to gain widespread political support.
Opposition Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek told the Australian Associated Press on Saturday that the Labor Party was waiting for details of the full package before deciding whether to back it. "We want to see a diversity of voices in the Australian media and we know the economics of journalism have changed a great deal," she said.
Journalists at Fairfax Media Ltd., which operates three of the nation's most influential newspapers, are currently on strike after the company announced plans to cut a further 125 full-time positions on top of substantial job reductions in previous years.
In order to give "financial relief" to commercial broadcasters, the government will also abolish free-to-air broadcasting annual license fees, which raise around A$130 million a year, and introduce a new annual spectrum licensing fee estimated to collect A$40 million a year, Fifield said in the statement.
The drop was welcomed by the TV industry, with Seven West Media Ltd. Chairman Kerry Stokes saying the changes would give the commercial network a "a real opportunity to compete in the new-media environment."
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