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Australia prepares for launch of national gambling framework

| By iGB Editorial Team
Australian states to roll out range of consumer protection controls over coming year after Queensland signs up to scheme

Australia's six governments have formally committed to launching a National Consumer Protection Framework for wagering, paving the way for a number of social responsibility initiatives to be rolled out in 2019.

A 10-point action plan has been drawn up by Australia’s federal government, originally in response to the 2015 O’Farrell Review of the country’s gambling industry. The implementation had looked likely to face delays, with Queensland refusing to commit to the framework, preferring to develop its own strategy. However, it has now fallen in line with the country’s other five states in agreeing to the national policy.

“The measures are designed to reduce the harm that can be caused to individuals and their families by excessive or at-risk online wagering,” the country’s Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher explained. “The National Framework will apply to about 2.5 million active online wagering accounts, or about a million people in Australia.”

Two of the new measures have already been introduced, with a prohibition on lines of credit being offered by bookmakers and links between payday lenders and licensed wagering operators implemented from February 2018. This saw operators banned from taking advertising from payday loans companies on their websites, and from referring customers or providing customer information to lenders.

Within three months of the National Consumer Protection Framework coming into force, operators will then have to reduce the window in which customers have to verify their identity with bookmakers from 90 to 21 days. This is designed to prevent minors from gambling and ensure self-excluded customers cannot create new accounts.

Six months after the framework’s introduction, a trio of additional measures will then be enforced. Bookies will be required to comply with regulations for offering customers inducements to gamble, to ensure tactics such as sign-up bonuses and refer-a-friend schemes are run responsibly.

This will be accompanied by new rules around account closures. Operators will be required to clearly provide information on how consumers can close their accounts, as well as making the process as simple as possible and ensuring that all customers that do so are removed from marketing databases.

A voluntary pre-commitment scheme, in which players can set deposit and time limits, will also be rolled out at this time.

Finally, within a year of the framework coming into force, operators will be required to provide customers with activity statements, giving them greater insights into their gambling habits. This will be followed by the launch of consistent responsible gambling messaging to be carried by all operators, while bookmakers’ staff will be required to complete training to ensure they can interact with customers that may be experiencing difficulties.

A national self-exclusion scheme will also be rolled out by the end of the framework’s first year in effect, allowing consumers to block themselves from all online betting sites through a single registration process.

“If you exclude from one, you exclude from all—this is a first in Australia,” Fletcher noted.

Responsible Wagering Australia executive director Stephen Conroy hailed the introduction of the framework, by saying: “These are landmark reforms which solidify Australia’s place as a leader in social responsibility in wagering.

“We are grateful to Minister Fletcher and his predecessors, Ministers Tehan and Tudge, for leading a thorough and consultative process on this important package of measures.”

The framework was developed to complement other reforms to Australia’s gambling industry, which has already seen a ban on non-wagering products and a crackdown on offshore operators launched. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) claims that these reforms have forced 33 unlicensed operators to withdraw from the market, and projects that it will slash revenue from offshore gambling to AUD$200m in 2018.

This has been disputed by advocacy body the Australian Online Poker Alliance, which argues that the departed operators have simply been replaced by new offshore entrants.

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