Social Sector Welcomes Government Crackdown on Online Gambling
Wednesday, 3rd May 2017 at 2:46 pm
Leading anti-gambling advocates are backing the government’s move to curb the rapid rise of problem online gambling but say that without strong enforcement the moves could be “toothless”.
Ministers from the federal government met with state and territory ministers on Friday to introduce broad reforms to provide stronger consumer protections in online gambling and address the rapid rise of problem online gambling.
A total of 11 strategies, including voluntary pre-commitment schemes and self-exclusion registers, and a ban on credit lines offered by wagers, could be introduced as early as the end of the year.
Ministers also agreed to establishing a national gambling research model with a $3 million contribution from state and territory governments and a further $1.35 million from the Commonwealth.
Federal Human Services Minister Alan Tudge championed Friday’s outcome as Australia’s largest reform to gambling to date but anti-gambling advocates were more reserved in their praise.
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said the biggest win was the ban on gambling companies offering lines of credit.
“Gambling companies are not banks, they shouldn’t be offering credit. Which is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for half second. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but at least it’s a step forward,” Costello said.
Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce chair Mark Zirnsak agreed and said the proposed reforms were “a very significant step forward”.
“The pre-commitment announcement sounds like it will be binding which is very promising but if users can just go in and alter their budget that will be very disappointing indeed,” Zirnsak said.
“Obviously we would like to see things go further… The fact that the online gambling companies are accepting these measures tells you that they have been getting away with murder for a very long time.
“I couldn’t be confident that there will be [stronger measures], I suspect we will have to keep on exposing the harm that has been done.”
Tudge estimated that Australians lose $1.4 billion per annum on online gambling, with the segment undergoing significant growth of 15 per cent per year.
Wagers using online gambling were three times more likely to develop problematic gambling behaviours as opposed to any other method.
Financial Counselling Australia director of policy and campaigns Lauren Levin said that online gambling was “like gambling on speed.”
“[In the online environment] you can lose so much money so quickly. I know a man who lost his entire redundancy payment, $150,000 in a few short weeks and up to $60,000 in one night,” Levin said.
“Really it is a no-brainer that we are on a trajectory for really dangerous things happening.”
Levin said the dominate narrative of an individual’s right to choose how they spent their money needed to be balanced against a family’s right to spend income on food and rent.
To that effect, Levin said work was underway to suggest a charter of rights for partners of problem gamblers, which would trump privacy laws and is already operating to some extent in Tasmania and South Australia.
Levin said work was also underway to develop an algorithm to detect problem gambling behaviours before significant damage was done.
“People have the right to do what they want with their money but you only have to look at their online transactions, with them betting every four minutes on anything that moves, to see that their behaviour is erratic and there is nothing rational about it…They are not in their right minds,” she said.
Anti-gambling campaigners are calling for the reforms to be legislated under the Commonwealth, not state law, as multibillion, multinational companies have found legal loopholes in more relaxed states and territories.
“We need to see it [the proposed framework] implemented quickly and enforced. Without enforcement then it will be toothless,” Levin said.
Costello added: “We know a lot [of the gambling companies] will wriggle and squirm to try to get out of it. It is going to take time, effort and vigilance.”
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