Gamblers will no longer be able to use credit cards to punt online under a forthcoming ban, which anti-gambling advocates say must be the first step in a broader crackdown on the industry.
The Albanese government will this year introduce legislation to implement the credit card ban, bringing online gambling companies such as Sportsbet in line with state bans already in place for casinos and other offline gambling venues.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, who will jointly announce the ban with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth on Friday, said the measure delivered on the simple principle that “people should not be betting with money they do not have”.
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief executive Carol Bennett said the ban would make a huge difference for gamblers struggling with addiction, but it was a long-overdue reform advocates had been urging action on for years.
Bennett said the government had “no alternative” but to take further steps in regulating the industry to seriously tackle addiction and harm after a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling, which will hand its recommendations to the government later this year.
“They have seen through the online gambling inquiry just how significant this issue is and the level of concern from the community, which shows we have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to gambling harm for a very long time,” Bennett said.
Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh told the inquiry it was an “absolute absurdity” that credit cards could still be used for virtual gambling, noting that state and territory governments banned their use in hotels, clubs, casinos and TABs in the early 2000s.
“So I can sit in a TAB or a pub and I can gamble on my betting app, using my credit card and accruing debt, but I cannot use my credit card at the betting counter in that TAB or at that hotel,” Bligh said.
The ban – which is backed by the wagering industry and the banking sector – was a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services in November 2021, and will involve using Bank Identification Numbers to identify and block credit card payments.
The government last year forced the industry to ditch the “gamble responsibly” tagline from online betting ads, apps and websites in favour of new taglines that prompt gamblers to consider the consequences of losing a bet.
Rishworth indicated the government was open to further reform. “We’ll now look to what’s next, along with our state and territory colleagues,” she said.
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), the industry lobby group whose members include bet365, Betfair and Sportsbet, committed in August 2021 to implementing a voluntary credit card ban, but the inquiry into online gambling heard last month that self-regulation had stalled.
In evidence to the inquiry, RWA representatives said the industry supported the ban, but it needed to be enforced through legislation.
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