Aussie bank bans credit card gambling to protect customers’ interests
Monday, 1st July 2019 at 4:31 pm
Macquarie has become the first major Australian bank to ban the use of its credit cards for gambling, prompting calls for the big four banks to follow suit.
From Monday, Macquarie will block credit card transactions registered under a gambling and lottery merchant code, as part of a commitment to improve the financial wellbeing of its customers.
The banking group will also cap cash advance balances at $1,000 from the end of August.
Macquarie’s head of personal banking Ben Perham said the company was being proactive in helping customers manage their finances effectively and avoid problematic credit card debt.
“The blocking of transactions that are registered under a gambling and lottery merchant code, as well as capping cash advance balances, are just some of the important steps we’re taking to support the financial wellbeing of our customers when they bank with Macquarie,” Perham said.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR) congratulated Macquarie for making the move, which comes amid recent revelations that Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers in per capita terms with $24 billion in losses a year.
AGR director Tim Costello said Macquarie had set a new benchmark for bank social responsibility and he called on the big four banks to quickly follow suit by dumping global gambling companies.
“Australian banks have been gouging millions from gamblers by treating credit card deposits as cash advances which carry high up-front fees and instant excessive interest charges running to nearly 20 per cent,” Costello said.
“Rather than collaborating with a largely foreign-owned predatory industry and joining with them to make excessive profits from debt-funded gambling, Macquarie demonstrated great social leadership.
“Now that the precedent has been set by Macquarie, it is time the big four also pulled the plug on the likes of Beteasy, Bet365, Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, just as [Macquarie] have now done.”
This change will only capture companies using the specific merchant code for the gambling industry, meaning sports betting companies are likely to be caught but many club and pub pokies operators will slip through undetected.
AGR is advocating for any pub or club which receives more than 50 per cent of its revenue from gambling to be required to use the gambling merchant code.
Costello said he will be writing to the chairs of CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac calling on them to publicly commit to matching Macquarie’s reforms before nominations close for board elections at their AGMs later this year.
“It is also time for Scott Morrison and [Anthony Albanese] to get behind a ban on credit card gambling similar to what the UK Labour Party’s gambling spokesman and deputy leader Tom Watson announced in September 2018,” he said.
“The federal and state governments collaborated in 2018 to ban credit betting when the gambling company provided the finance, but they’ve done nothing to tackle the rapidly growing problem of credit card betting.”