Australian Government Introduces Strategies to Fight Problem Gambling

Australia has moved further forward in its crackdown on online gambling, as first reported by local media. The Federal Government and state ministers penned on Friday an agreement for the establishment of a National Consumer Protection Framework to curb social problems arising from Internet gambling services.

Online gambling is a thriving industry Down Under, reports from the past several years have shown. There are more than 800,000 betting accounts across the nation and the amount of A$1.4 billion was wagered online last year. What is more, the industry has been estimated to be growing 15% per year.

During a meeting in Melbourne, led by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, federal and state officials discussed and approved 11 strategies to fight problem gambling and minimize risk and harm from online gambling services.

One of the strategies to be adopted involves the creation of self-exclusion register for online bettors. Thus, customers that are prone to gambling addiction and/or have started to show symptoms of addiction will be able to self-exclude themselves from their preferred gambling sites.

A voluntary pre-commitment scheme is also to be established, although some ministers pointed out that it should be a compulsory measure rather than an option.

Australia’s top officials further dwelt on the lines of credit gambling operators have been offering to their customers. According to Friday’s agreement, such practices will be fully banned. With gambling companies being allowed to provide bettors with lines of credit, customers often continue betting until they go bankrupt, Minister Tudge told local media. He further added that operators should be prohibited from acting as banks so as for a safer and more secure gambling environment to be created.

The ban on the lines of credit is considered an important step forward by Australian lawmakers. Such a prohibition was first introduced by Senator Nick Xenophon years ago but has failed to be implemented up until now.

Other strategies to be adopted include a review of the way gambling products are advertized on television and other mediums as well as of bonus and inducement systems used by operators to draw customers.

Earlier this month, Minister Tudge introduced a bill calling for the implementation of stricter measures regarding the regulation of offshore gambling companies. According to the official, the Interactive Gaming Act 2001, or the country’s gambling law, contained inadequacies that have been explored and exploited by operators over the years.

Sports betting is the only online gambling activity to be specifically stated as legal under the country’s existing regulations. In-play betting or betting during a sports event is forbidden by law. However, operators seem to have found loopholes in regulations, avoiding the ban through the so-called “click-to-call” apps. Minister Tudge’s proposed legislation dwells thoroughly on the prohibition of the said applications, among many other important topics.

What is more, if signed into law, the bill would require from all offshore operators to obtain a license for the provision of gambling services to Australian customers. Otherwise, their operations in the country will be deemed illegal and will be prosecuted.

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