The representative of the greatest players in Australian online gambling says that players should not be discouraged from running into debt in order to bet.

Important points:

  • According to MP Andrew Wallace, banks have a “social responsibility” to stop using credit cards when betting online
  • The banking industry says it has no plans to change its policies on credit card use, although the matter itself was raised in 2019
  • The head of a gambling lobby says that wagering online is more protective than casinos or pokies

Brent Jackson, CEO of Responsible Wagering Australia, followed a call from Queensland MP Andrew Wallace for crackdown on the use of credit cards in online gambling.

The LNP member for Fisher is pushing the country’s banks to create a voluntary code of conduct that would mean punters could only place online bets with their own money.

Mr. Wallace said it was “a no-brainer”.

“We know people pay 22 percent or more interest on their credit card balances – it’s a very dangerous mix,” he said.

“You can’t use a credit card to go into a TAB and play on the horses or dogs, you can’t use a credit card in a casino, and you can’t use a credit card to play on the pokies.”

For nearly 20 years, players have not been able to use credit cards to access cash advances in casinos and poker machine lounges.

Suncorp and Macquarie have already voluntarily stopped allowing the use of credit cards for betting apps, but the big four – Westpac, NAB, ANZ and Commonwealth Bank – have not followed suit.

Sunshine Coast MP Andrew Wallace says he will try to force banks to switch if they do not voluntarily choose. (Supplied: Andrew Wallace)

“The Right to Choose”

But Mr Jackson, whose lobby group represents the likes of Sportsbet, Bet365, Ladbrokes, Neds and others, said there was no reason to stop Australians from getting into debt to gamble.

He said online gambling is “safer” than wagering in a casino or poker machine because it is subject to strict laws and companies can monitor gaming behavior in real time.

According to Brent Jackson, online gambling companies have the ability to act immediately if they discover worrying behavior. (Supplied: Responsible Wagering Australia)

“They specifically look out for unusual behavior and strange patterns of behavior and activities that are not considered normal and potentially risky,” Jackson said.

“We can take a number of steps to prevent it from being banned completely. In this case, we will often contact customers directly.”

Mr Jackson said it should be left to players to decide whether to use credit cards when gambling online.

“We believe consumers should have the right to choose and manage their betting preferences directly,” he said.

“What we don’t see is an indication of a problem out there.

“We think the punters behave responsibly.”

A live sports betting website on a mobile phone, April 24, 2020. Online sports betting companies have had strong financial results during the pandemic in Australia. (ABC News)

Strong support for constraints

In late 2019, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) asked members and others whether banks should prohibit the use of credit cards for gambling apps.

His report found that 81 percent of Australians believed the practice should be restricted or banned.

Only 7 percent did not support restrictions.

The ABA described players on its website as “customers at risk” but has opted against any kind of blanket policy and cited fears that they might be violating anti-competitive laws.

However, the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) said it supported other voluntary codes of conduct towards banks.

A spokeswoman said the ACCC could also grant an exemption from the law if there was significant public benefit.

Late last year, a survey of 2,000 people by the Australian Gambling Research Center found that one in three people had signed up for new online betting accounts.

The biggest growth market consisted of people aged 18 to 34 who, according to the center, played more and spent more.

Sportsbet’s profits soared 108 percent between April and June last year during the COVID-19 shutdown, rising from $ 96 million to $ 191 million.

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A middle-aged man in a plaid shirt walking through a park. Relationships Australia Queensland consultant David McAnalen is now helping others after leaving his gambling troubles behind. (Supplied: Relationships Australia Queensland)

“I would always find a way”

David McAnalen said he used to spend money on almost everything he could – “casino games, electronic slot machines, pokies, scratch-its, lottos, sweepstakes, horses, dogs”.

“I bet everything,” he said.

“If I had been an active player when the online world opportunity arose, I would have accepted it.”

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Mr McAnalen said whatever the barrier, he would overcome it to play.

“I would always find a way – I’ve always found a way,” he said.

Mr McAnalen said he was forced to change after his parents and sisters told him they loved him but that they could not have him in their life if he kept playing.

As an advisor to Relationships Australia, McAnalen said he was no longer “triggered” by gambling – but he was also not fully cured.

“It’s the first drink that does all the damage – it’s the first bet that does all the damage and it all comes back,” McAnalen said.

“I wake up in the morning and say, ‘There are a lot of things I can do today and one thing I don’t want to do today is play’.”

A smiling man with thick glasses leaning against a tiled wall. According to Charles Livingstone, there is no evidence that online gambling companies are taking steps that could make their businesses safer for punters. (Supplied: Monash University)

Focus on the “social responsibility” of banks

Monash University associate professor Charles Livingstone has studied gambling habits for decades.

He agreed that online gambling had the potential to be safer, but didn’t believe that it necessarily had to be the case right now.

“You could certainly step in and stop the gambling,” said Dr. Livingstone.

“There is absolutely no evidence that they do that.”

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In case studies used in a 2015 study by Financial Counseling Australia, members worked with people who had lost large sums of money betting online, including a player who had amassed $ 300,000 in debt over three years .

In 2019, an ABC investigation reported allegations that Bet365 was distorting its system to encourage player loss while banning or restricting winners.

This month, research from Oxford University found that gambling increased the risk of death and was linked to addictive behavior and financial problems.

The Oxford results inspired Mr. Wallace’s call for change here in Australia.

“They don’t want mom or dad to go out and blow up the weekly wages on the line, or online in this case,” he said.

“Banks have a social responsibility to step in and say, ‘We are not going to let this happen any more’.

“If they do not introduce a voluntary code, I recommend to my parliamentary colleagues that we force them to do so.

“If they don’t act voluntarily, they don’t have many options.”