Financial Counsellors Welcome Proposal to Ban Gambling Ads and Inducements

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A circular sign with an x drawn through it, 'unacceptable' is written underneath

Original media release from FCA, released 28/06/2023.

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) welcomes the recommendations made by a Government inquiry into online gambling harm, saying the committee has heard the concerns of financial counsellors and the community, and responded.

FCA’s director of Policy and Campaigns Lauren Levin said: “The inquiry’s recommendations are a huge step forward and will make a difference if the government implements them. We now need the Government to act quickly, because we have done too little, too late in the past decade, leading to Australians having the highest per-capita losses in the world. We can’t afford to let the years slip by, because each day financial counsellors are seeing people present with the worst forms of gambling harm, including as suicide risks.

“These recommendations are huge, especially the banning of inducements and gambling advertising, a statutory duty of care and taking a public health approach.”

We welcome the following recommendations made by the Parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm. 

How gambling is regulated and compliance monitoring 

  • A single Minister responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive national strategy on online gambling-harm reduction (within 12 months), supported by national regulation
  • A new national regulator with broad powers and penalties and with the sole purpose of reducing harm, and with responsibility for licensing and regulation
  • National regulation to prevent crime-funded gambling
  • An online gambling ombudsman (this is not an industry-funded ombudsman but sits within the new national regulator)
  • Improved data collection with regulators and approved researchers having access to almost real-time de-identified betting

Harm prevention regulation  

  • A statutory duty of care on gambling operators
  • A phased, comprehensive ban on all gambling advertising in all media – broadcast and online, that leaves no room for circumvention. The comprehensive ban would be phased in over a three-year period
  • A ban on inducements
  • A prohibition on referral commissions being paid to both staff and third-party referral businesses (gambling affiliates)
  • No gambling before ID is verified (instead of the current 72-hour window which allows minors and the self-excluded to open new accounts and gamble).

 Social impact funding

  • A levy on gambling operators to fund a range of services, including funding for financial counsellors to improve their gambling-related training to improve their capacity to assist people seeking help for gambling harms, including suicidal ideation
  • Ongoing funded online gambling public health campaign with national marketing.

 Banks, payday lenders and payment providers 

  • The Government develop gambling harm prevention standards to be implemented by all Australian banks, including that the Betstop self-exclusion register to be linked to bank customer gambling blocks (through gambling merchant code blocks)
  • Ban on payment methods for online gambling that do not minimise the risk of criminal activity and gambling harm
  • Review of the payday lending sector’s compliance with responsible lending obligations in relation to gambling.

Gambling suicide prevention 

  • Bank and gambling industry guidelines for suicide referrals
  • National data collection program for gambling harm suicide prevention (police are missing)
  • New research program on gambling related suicides.

What is missing? 

  • Single one-stop-shop self-exclusion process
  • National regulator with anti-money laundering supervisory powers
  • Mandated deposit limits on the amount a person can potentially gamble each week: the report recommends an evaluation of the voluntary deposit limits currently in place. 

“While the recommendations are very strong, we encourage the Government to implement mandatory capped deposit limits. These have worked in many European jurisdictions and would be a game-changer in Australia, too. Germany has recently introduced €1000 ($AU1635) monthly capped limit for all forms of gambling, across all gambling companies. No-one can lose their house or accident compensation lump sum gambling in Germany, as we see in Australia. Belgium now has a statutory €200 ($AU327) per week limit.

“Depositing the equivalent of a half a week’s wages is not consistent with safe gambling,” Ms Levin said.

Ms Levin said the financial counselling sector looks forward to working with the Federal Government to prevent gambling harm.