The implementation of gambling self-exclusion register, BetStop, is a game-changer for people ready and willing to stop gambling online, according to Financial Counselling Australia (FCA).
FCA’s director of Policy and Campaigns Lauren Levin said the move confirmed the nation was “on the cusp of a new era where Australians will get meaningful consumer protections to not just minimise online gambling harm, but prevent it”.
“There is a hidden epidemic of gambling harm in Australia, and it’s far worse than most people realise,” Ms Levin said.
“BetStop is without doubt a game-changer for people who have been harmed, or are at risk of harm from online gambling, but financial counsellors are ready to support people wanting to take that first step and put their name on the register. It is a sensitive area because shame and stigma hold many people back, but we need to normalise getting help.”
Ms Levin, a long-time campaigner for gambling consumer protection, said she hears every week from people with a devastating story about a son, a friend, or about being broken and wanting to end their shame.
“For years, we’ve had the message ‘gamble responsibly’ which was a gambling-industry endorsed philosophy that deliberately placed all the onus on individuals. So, people internalised this message of shame and failure if they developed a gambling problem.
“Therefore, we need to show our friends and family who gamble that we’re not judging them, but supporting them to use BetStop to help them take control and stop gambling. Let’s spread the word so everyone knows about BetStop and the other blocking tools.”
Together with the banks’ customer gambling blocks that NAB, Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and Suncorp now have in their apps, and subscription-based, gambling-blocking software that people can install on their devices to block gambling sites from opening, these three forms of blocks can help people.
“My suggestion is to do it all. Layer up protection. They all work in different ways. None covers the field on its own. And please consider help from a gambling financial counsellor or gambling therapeutic counsellor to address debts and root causes of gambling.”
Ms Levin said the next step is to roll out a self-exclusion register across other forms of gambling (not just online gambling), such as in clubs, pubs and casinos, which is currently in most cases an onerous and unsatisfactory process.
“I just spoke to a man who went to 36 pubs to self-exclude and spoke of the humiliating process of entering the venue, making the request and having his photo taken. He pleaded for a better way.”
Ms Levin said while the BetStop announcement was welcome, she had first raised the proposal with the Federal Government in 2015.
“It would help so many more people, if the states and territories worked with the Federal Government to make a one-stop shop for people to press one button and self-exclude from all forms of gambling, or whatever combination works for them.
“But please don’t let us wait another eight years for this to become a reality.”
Gamblers Help: 1800 858 858
National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007 and ndh.org.au (online chat)
For more information on BetStop, visit here.
Media contact: Lauren Levin 0411 050 035, or [email protected]