An Australian Senate committee has come under pressure to push through a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling as it prepares its recommendations for a proposed Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill.
Financial counsellors and gambling reform groups argued their case on Friday as the committee heard submissions prior to making its final recommendations. Supporters of the credit card ban urged the committee to take action that they feel could have a hugely positive impact on problem gambling in Australia.
The bill proposes that the Australian government follows the UK’s lead after positive feedback following the UKGC’s decision to ban the use of credit cards for all forms of mobile gambling. Supporters of the bill say that this will reduce the financial impact of problem gambling as it would make it more difficult for gamblers to borrow money in order to place bets.
Speaking to the committee, Dr Mark Zirnsak from the Alliance for Gambling Reform said:
“The legislation is absolutely necessary and would be a significant step forward in addressing gambling harm”
Lauren Levine from Financial Counselling Australia added:
“We know a lot of people are struggling in Covid, but other countries have done things with gambling in Covid. Spain banned gambling advertising during lockdown, Sweden introduced a national gambling ID where people can only spend a set amount over all forms., the UK regulator introduced guidance for wagering operators.
We’ve done … absolutely nothing, and gambling has increased. Sportsbet’s profits were up 108 per cent to the six months to June 30 last year.”
Supporters of the bill have reiterated that the legislation is not suggesting that people stop gambling—the bill and credit card ban are merely an additional safeguard against impulsive gambling habits for those who cannot afford to gamble and use credit to chase losses.
Andrew Whitecross from the Australian Institute of Family Studies told the committee:
“In that sense, it’s trying to provide some friction in people’s gambling behaviour. It would benefit some people and could reduce their propensity to engage in risky behaviours without stopping them from engaging in gambling if they want … just in a more planned way.”
Gambling reform groups have also raised concerns about the use of e-wallets and service providers such as PayPal that allow deposits using credit cards. These can then be used to fund gambling activities. Supporters of the bill have suggested that restrictions of some sort be placed on how these services are used.
The committee has now finished hearing submissions and will make its final report on October 8th.