Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes amendments to the Interactive Gambling Bill (IGA) that passed through Parliament yesterday.
“The online wagering companies will no longer be able to give people credit to gamble online. This was getting people into so much trouble” said Lauren Levin, Director Campaigns and Policy, FCA. “We’re so relieved to see the end of gamblers being offered credit and the ferocious debt collection that followed, when they inevitably lost.”
FCA congratulates Minister Alan Tudge for including this important protection in the IGA. We also applaud and recognise the important role of Senator Nick Xenophon, and his team in pushing for consumer protections, and being the first to recognise that this required a legislative response. Both the Minister and the Senator have worked tirelessly to get this through.
Other important measures include a ban on in-play betting, beefing up of ACMA’s regulatory powers with higher civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties, ACMA being able to conduct own motion inquiries, and a prohibition on gambling companies colluding with payday lenders to bypass the laws and offer credit.
There are still gaps remaining, however, in the consumer protection framework and more needs to be done. The next round of reform needs to address the following:
- Enshrining the draft Online Gambling Consumer Protection Framework in Federal Legislation. There are a suite of critical innovations that should be included in a national framework: a national regulator, a National Online Exclusion Register, an effective pre-commitment tool, access to gambler’s financial statements, and mandatory staff training. We need to be sure that people will be able to easily make complaints when there are breaches of the law and that the regulators will have the powers to crack down on those flaunting the law.
- Banks lending responsibly so that the credit they provide is not fueling a person’s gambling addiction. Lending people money to gamble can never be responsible lending. Bank credit cards are commonly used for gambling, and many gamblers shop around for as many cards as they can get.
- A prohibition on advertising by gambling companies, across all platforms.
- Giving the partners of gamblers some rights to help them avoid financial abuse, which is a form of family violence.
“Many people are rightly concerned about the scourge of family violence, but in the online sports betting space the narrative is all about a person’s right to spend their money on gambling if they choose to,” said Ms Levin. “However, when the partners of online gamblers, who are mostly female, come to financial counsellors with not enough money for the family food shopping, family assets dissipated, and debts because the husband has spent too much of their money on gambling, they have no rights in the proposed consumer framework.
This is financial abuse and is directly attributed to gambling, but a woman is unable to require a gambling company to flag that her partner may have a serious problem.”
FCA’s August 2015 report ‘Duds, Mugs and the A-List – a report into the impact of uncontrolled sports betting’outlined serious and unethical practices in the online sports betting industry, particularly around credit and gambler grooming. Two weeks later, the Government announced a review into the Interactive Gambling Act.
Media Contact: Lauren Levin, 0411 050 035