Australian ministers agree on online gambling reform

Business News

Online gambling sites operating in Australia will be banned from offering lines of credit under sweeping new reforms.

A national self-exclusion register will also be established under major changes to the bookmaking industry agreed to by state, territory and federal ministers in Melbourne on Thursday.

‘Our view is that there’s too much of a conflict of interest for a gambling provider to both be a provider as well as effectively a bank and, therefore, that should be prohibited,’ Human Services Minister Alan Tudge told Sky News.

He has been campaigning for a crackdown on such lines of credit for years ever since an unemployed man with a whopping gambling debt came into his Victorian electorate office asking for help in early 2011.

The self-confessed problem gambler was offered $80,000 in credit from a corporate bookmaker and blew the lot in one weekend.

‘He was bankrupted by the company and they were about to seize his and his widowed mother’s house in order to recoup the money when he came to see me,’ Mr Tudge said.

‘I just think it’s unconscionable for a company to provide lines of credit for them to continue to bet once they’ve emptied out their credit cards; they’ve emptied out their savings account and yet they’re provided lines of credit.’

Mr Tudge said the bookmaking giants largely agreed they should no longer offer the credit lines.

‘I think they’ve come a long way to realise they’ve got to be responsible going forward if they’re to continue to operate effectively in Australia.’

Corporate bookies offering credit are banned in most Australian jurisdictions, but not in the Northern Territory, where most internet gambling companies are licensed.

A representative for the NT minister indicated on Thursday the top end was broadly on board with the suite of changes, Mr Tudge said.

The two tiers of government are still working out whether the national reforms will be enacted through state laws and licensing conditions or through Commonwealth legislation.

The self-exclusion register would be designed to apply across all gambling sites.

‘You’ll be able to go on to one of your apps, self-exclude yourself from betting, and that will automatically apply across other apps which you might have on your phone or computer,’ Mr Tudge said.

The ministers also agreed to roll out regular activity statements and a voluntary ‘pre-commitment’ option across gambling sites.

‘When you sign up for an account, you’ll be asked to pre-commit the amount of money which you’re willing to spend over a certain period of time,’ Mr Tudge said.

However World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello jas told Sky News these measures are only a small step.

‘Voluntary self exclusions are about as useful as voluntary breaks in a car, the truth is that even when you self exclude with one betting company you can still go to another,’ he said.

‘What we are talking about here is addiction and we don’t advertise drugs because we know they are addictive this is like and addictive drug,’

Mr Costello also confirmed there was division within the government as to whether online betting advertisements during live football games should be banned.

‘I’m hearing there’s a tussle, I pay full credit to Scott Morrison who I think is very principled on this,’ he said.

‘It’s always a tussle because of the muscle of gambling in this country, you know the history of politics here, basically gambling has run politics for far too long.’