Online gambling ministers to meet amid credit card crackdown

Financial Review
Online gambling ministers to meet amid credit card crackdown
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Australia has the highest annual gambling losses per person in the world – $1300 per adult, totalling more than $25 billion – fuelled by high poker machine use and online gambling.

Nearly three-quarters of Australian adults have gambled once in the past year, the Australian Gambling Research Centre says, and the estimated prevalence of “problem gambling” doubled to 1.23 per cent between 2010-11 and 2019.

Problem gambling is three times more common among interactive or internet gamblers than traditional land-based gamblers.

Until now, gamblers could use credit cards to deposit money directly into online and app-based betting accounts, despite the form of payment being banned from physical gambling locations such as casinos and hotels since the early 2000s.

Under existing rules, customers can still use debit cards or a bank transfer to deposit money into accounts.

The ban was recommended by a parliamentary joint committee in November 2021, under the previous Morrison government. The Albanese government then set up its own online gambling parliamentary inquiry, which recommended a comprehensive ban on all advertising for online gambling.

It is still considering the recommendations, which have prompted outrage among media and betting companies.

The government has been discussing measures to amend Australia’s online gambling laws for several months. It has introduced BetStop, a register that allows Australians to exclude themselves from wagering services. It will also introduce mandatory identity checks for new customers, expected to be in place by the end of this month.

The credit card ban comes as no surprise and has been widely expected and supported among the top players in the online wagering industry, which consists of ASX-listed Tabcorp and foreign-owned bookmakers Sportsbet and Ladbrokes.

Australian Banking Association boss Anna Bligh told an inquiry into online gambling in April this year the loophole was an “absolute absurdity”.

“I can sit in a TAB or a pub and I can gamble on my betting app, using my credit card and accruing debt, but I cannot use my credit card at the betting counter in that TAB or at that hotel,” she said.

There will be a six-month transition period for the new credit card laws.