Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has welcomed the start of Australia’s first online gambling exclusion register, while at the same time calling on governments to expand the facility to casinos, pokies and lotteries.
FCA’s director of Policy and Campaigns Lauren Levin said it was a relief to finally see the arrival of BetStop after almost eight years of hard work.
“We started advocating for this in 2015 and didn’t give up, because we always knew that an online gambling self-exclusion register would help a lot of people,” Ms Levin said.
“Now we call on the state premiers to make BetStop a national register for all forms of gambling, including casinos, pokies, and lotteries. It’s not rocket science to simply give people the protection that they are asking for.
“The launch today is important, but it is just the first step. BetStop took eight years and we are way behind other countries in providing the basic consumer protection of being able to choose to exclude from gambling. As well, BetStop is just one piece of the consumer-protection jigsaw puzzle, We’re a long way from being able to say ‘the job is done’.”
Ms Levin said BetStop had two benefits: online gambling companies cannot accept bets from people who are registered and they cannot send them marketing material. She also reminded people they don’t have to hit rock bottom to register.
“If you’re simply gambling more than feels good the next day, we’d encourage you to register with BetStop. Stop for a few months – it doesn’t have to be forever if that feels too much. This will free up money to spend on living expenses, to pay off debts and put some money into savings.”
Long-time gambler and BetStop advocate John* said he had been counting the days to the launch and planned to be the first to sign up on the register as “a life-long, permanent member”.
“This self-exclusion register is best thing that has happened in my long and painful journey,” John said. “In the past, it was far too easy to self-exclude from one betting company, then go online and open a new account with another company a day or a week later.”
John said punters should remember that going on the register doesn’t have to be forever, but at least gives people “a moment of pause to acknowledge how gambling is affecting their lives and those of their families”.
“The other message is that the longer you go on gambling, the more you will continue to lose – it’s that simple.
“Give BetStop a go to see what impact a few months of not gambling has on your finances and mental health. It’s not just the money you lose, but the time spent online gambling, like being online until 2am, the lack of sleep affects your mood and how you function for days afterwards. Just give BetStop a go.”
Ms Levin said another positive aspect of BetStop was the ability to nominate a support person(s) who can help people when the register period expires and you have to decide to renew the exclusion or resume gambling.
“The risky time is when the BetStop period expires, as this is when gambling marketing might resume and people might return to their bad old days,” she said. “So the idea of nominating a ‘support person’ is that the supporters get the notifications too, and can be there to talk things through.
“It can be your partner, a caring workmate, parent or friend, or anyone who you know will be a good person to talk things through and have your back. Tell them why you’re going on BetStop and ask them to be there if you need reminding of your goal.”
BetStop, visit here or betstop.gov.au
Gamblers Help: 1800 858 858
National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007 and ndh.org.au (online chat)
Note: Gambling financial counsellors help people impacted by gambling, both the person gambling and those impacted by someone else’s gambling. It is a free, independent and confidential service.
Media contact: Lauren Levin 0411 050 035, or [email protected]
* surname withheld for privacy reasons