Australian government sets sights on credit card betting ban

Australian government sets sights on credit card betting ban

The Australian government’s hands-on approach to betting regulation continued this week as the Anthony Albanese administration introduced new legislation to parliament.

Payments are under the spotlight in the government’s latest betting crackdown, specifically credit card transactions and the use of digital currencies – it can be assumed the government is targeting crypto under this definition – for online betting.

To enforce the new measures, the Bill will also expand the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the government body charged with nationwide regulatory oversight of Australia’s gambling sector.

Under these proposals, the ACMA would be able to charge ‘civil penalty provisions’ of up to AUD$234,750 (approx €140,250) for operators that continue to accept credit card or digital currency payments.

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland MP, said: “It’s as simple as this: people should not be betting with money they do not have. The Australian 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. I would like to thank the wide variety of stakeholders, including harm reduction advocates, wagering and lottery providers, and banking payment organisations, for their contributions to and support for this Bill.”

Should the Bill pass through parliament, Australian operators will have a six month transition period from the date of its Royal Assent into legislation to implement changes to their business models.

Bans on credit card payments are not an uncommon feature of many regulated gambling markets, whilst the rise in popularity of digital currencies in recent years has also caught the attention of some regulators. 

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), for example, called an end to credit card payments for betting in 2020, and has repeatedly stated that it will investigate ‘novel’ products such as cryptocurrencies.

Australia’s Labor government has been pursuing a policy of ‘future proofing’ the country’s gambling regulations, with player protection – particularly safeguarding ‘vulnerable’ sections of Australian consumers – marked as a priority.

PM Albanese’ administration has so far adopted several enhanced policies in this area, with the latest legislative proposal taking on recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services (PJC Inquiry) from November 2021.

Since coming into power in the May 2022 elections, the Labor Party’s changes to the Australian gambling framework have been numerous. The most recent was the introduction of the BetStop national self-exclusion scheme, a similar platform to the UK’s Gamstop tool.

Prior to this, the government ditched the ‘gamble responsibly’ tagline used to promote responsible gambling in the country, replacing it with a range of harder hitting taglines to be used by operators, such as ‘chances are you’re about to lose’.

“Since coming to government we’ve prioritised addressing the harm caused by online gambling and I’m pleased we are taking the next step with legislation to ban the use of credit cards,” said Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services.

“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. 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.”

The Labor Party’s campaign to boost responsible gambling has also permeated down to the state level. In Victoria, the government of Daniel Andrews has initiated plans to make the Crown Melbourne casino a ‘global leader in the reduction of harm’.

Further upcoming national changes include mandatory customer pre-verification before accounts are created, which the government expects to be adopted by the end of September.

A ban on advertising could also be on the cards, having been suggested in parliament by Labor MPs. PM Albanese has not expressively supported such a move, however, he has described gambling ads as ‘annoying’ in media interviews.

With a parliamentary review of gambling and its societal impact ongoing, having begun in September 2022, the government has stated that it is ‘carefully considering’ any potential outcomes.

A meeting of government, state, territory and commonwealth Ministers responsible for gambling has been scheduled before the end of the year to discuss gambling regulation across Australia.

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