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Australia publishes legislation to enact credit card gambling ban

| By Robert Fletcher
The Australian government has today (13 September) tabled long-awaited legislation to ban the use of credit cards for online gambling in the country.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 seeks to ban credit cards and other credit-related products, as well as digital currencies.

Other measures set out in the amendment include fines for operators that do not enforce the ban. Licensees could be fined up to AU$234,750 (£120,462/€140,014/US$150,467) for not following the mooted new laws.

The amendment also expands Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) powers to enforce the new and existing penalty provisions. ACMA would be responsible for issuing penalties to those that do not follow the proposed ban.

Should the amendment pass into law, a six-month transition period would be implemented for both the gambling industry and consumers. This would be effective immediately from the date of Royal Assent.

Australia already has a ban on gambling with credit cards at land-based facilities. The bill would bring online gambling in line with this, effectively placing a blanket ban on all credit card gambling.

“It’s as simple as this: people should not be betting with money they do not have,” the minister for communications, Michelle Rowland MP, said. “The government remains committed to protecting Australians from gambling harms.

“Legislating a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling will help to protect vulnerable Australians and their loved ones.”

Long road to credit card gambling ban

The new bill implements the recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services from November 2021. However, a credit card gambling ban has been mooted for many years in Australia.

In December 2019, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) hosted a consultation on credit cards in gambling. The initiative, which ran through to March 2020, also looked at how banks can help better protect players. 

Calls for action grew from spring 2020 when Great Britain successfully introduced its own ban on credit card gambling. In the following summer members of Responsible Wagering Australia, including Bet365, Betfair and Entain, said they would support a ban.

The government consulted with many stakeholders to form the amendment bill including operators, harm reduction advocates, wagering and lottery providers and banking payment organisations.

Against this background, certain parties opted to effectively jump the gun and put in place their own bans. This included consumer-owned banking group Bank Australia, which in October 2021 announced account holders could no longer to use its credit cards to fund gambling.

Commenting on the new bill, minister for social services, Amanda Rishworth MP, said it represents the latest step by the government to address harm caused by online gambling.

“You can’t use your credit card to place a bet for land-based gambling and the same rules should apply for online gambling too,” Rishworth said. “We’re serious about protecting vulnerable Australians from the harm we know online gambling can cause. Any platform breaching the new rules will face penalties.

“We know minimising the harm caused by online gambling is not a set and forget exercise and I look forward to working with my state and territory counterparts on what comes next to continue this positive change.”

Wider efforts to combat gambling harm in Australia

Other recent measures put in place by the current government in Australia include monthly activity statements outlining wins and losses. It has also introduced new, evidence-based taglines to replace “Gamble Responsibly” and implemented nationally consistent training for staff working in the sector.

Consumers now also have access to the BetStop national self-exclusion register. Here, they can exclude themselves from gambling with all Australian licensees for a period of three months up to a lifetime. 

In addition, the government will soon introduce mandatory customer pre-verification. This will require operators to verify a customer’s identity when they register for a new account and before they can place a bet. The government expects this to be in place by the end of September.

Meanwhile, the government said that it is considering various other recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry into online gambling. It will hold a meeting of state, territory and commonwealth ministers responsible for online wagering before the end of 2023. 

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