Major change coming for Aussie punters

Australians would not longer be allowed to use credit cards to gamble online under a reform Labor intends to legislate later this year. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

Labor will introduce laws banning the use of credit cards for online gambling in line with existing rules for betting in pubs, clubs and casinos.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority would be given greater powers to enforce the ban, which would apply to wagering services with Australian licences.

The Albanese government will on Friday announce plans to introduce the relevant legislation by the end of the year, following the lead of the United Kingdom which introduced a similar ban about three years ago.

Federal parliament began considering the banning of credit cards for internet wagering in November 2021 when the restriction was recommended by a parliamentary committee on corporations and financial services.

Gambling addicts, reform advocates and crossbench MPs recently revived the idea as they heap pressure on the government to do more to tackle problem gambling.

Credit cards will be banned for use in online gambling under new laws to be introduced by the end of the year. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

The government says it will soon begin consulting with stakeholders on draft legislation and the technical implementation of the credit card ban, which will use bank identification numbers (BINs) to identify and block credit card payments.

Australian casinos and poker machine venues use a similar method of blocking BINs to stop credit card withdrawals from ATMs.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth flagged the federal government would work with state and territory counterparts to introduce further gambling reforms.

“Our government is committed to taking action in this space,” she said.

“We’ve implemented new taglines, we’re introducing BetStop and now with this latest measure we’re taking further action to help Australians who are vulnerable to harmful online wagering.”

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland will announce the ban on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said protecting Australians from gambling harm was one of the government’s key priorities.

“It’s as simple as this: people should not be betting with money they do not have,” she said.

Ms Rowland came under fire earlier this year after it emerged she had accepted two donations from Sportsbet right before the 2022 federal election.

Crossbench MPs argued the money put her in a conflict of interest given her portfolio is partly responsible for regulating online gambling.

Anthony Albanese and other Labor frontbenchers defended Ms Rowland, saying she complied with all rules.

There is concern over the gambling problem in Australia. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

Australia has the highest gambling losses per adult, with a total of $25bn in losses per annum.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently estimated that 7.2 per cent of Australians are already experiencing – or at risk of experiencing – gambling harm; the impact of which typically extends to around six others, including family and friends.

A parliamentary inquiry that has been scrutinising online gambling heard earlier this month that half a million Australians have asked to be placed on self-exclusion schemes for problem gamblers so they can’t lay bets.

Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh disclosed the figure at a public hearing, saying she was surprised to find out so many people were asking to be frozen out of betting services when this tool hadn’t been promoted to customers.

Credit cards would be banned from being used to gamble online if the legislation gets through parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

Data the ABA collected from the big four banks as well as Bendigo and Adelaide banks indicated more than 775,000 debit and credit cards have had gambling blocks placed upon them by customers.

Given this figure may include some customers placing blocks on multiple cards, and does not include data from every bank that provides this option to customers, the ABA “conservatively” estimates 500,000 people have placed gambling freezes on one or more of their cards.

A separate survey by the ABA recently found more than 80 per cent of Australians believe gambling with credit cards should be restricted or banned.

NRL chief executive officer Andrew Abdo told the same inquiry the league was “very supportive” of prohibiting credit cards for online wagering.

The probe has also heard evidence about a wide range of gambling harms beyond immediate financial consequences, including psychological and physical damage and the negative effect problem betting can have on relationships and families.

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) has welcomed the changes, stating credit and gambling could never go together, even if the percentage collected funded any good cause.

“I was told by a financial counsellor about another young person who tonight is sleeping in his car because of $500,000 spent with a single licensed operator,” Lauren Levin, FCA’s director of policy and campaigns, said.

“The operator ignored his plea to unsubscribe. This can’t go on.”