Building awareness of consumer protections for online wagering

Building awareness of consumer protections for online wagering

OPINION: GambleAware Week is a fitting time to not only take stock of your own gambling but also to revisit the facts of gambling in Australia.

As a nation that loves sport, there are plenty of Australians who love to have a punt as a form of entertainment, and we do this responsibly.  Responsible gambling measures are in effect now and working well.  Australia’s consumer safeguards for online betting are world leading.

Australia’s anti-gambling lobbyists however continue to push arguments low on facts.

A persistent myth being pushed is that betting online on sport and racing is more dangerous than gambling in a venue with cash. These claims have been discredited by independent academic research, yet activists resist the evidence as it doesn’t suit their world view.

Another myth being peddled by activists is that online wagering has surged during COVID 19. This deliberately misses the basic fact that all retail bookmakers and TABs closed their doors during the COVID crisis. Some punters shifted channels to access the same products in an online format, as with almost every other retail business in the country.

Independent research by the University of Sydney showed almost 75 per cent of people reported gambling less frequently during the shutdown, and the majority indicated gambling problems decreased over the shutdown.

Australia’s licensed online wagering operators are tightly regulated and offer some of the best consumer protections in the world.  Online betting in Australia is covered by over 17,000 pages of legislation and regulations.

Since 2018, a National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering has set mandatory requirements developed by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to foster responsible gambling by online punters. This is a strong regulatory approach and has the full support of industry.

These protections include prohibition of lines of credit; strict identity verification requirements; mandatory offering of deposit limits, mandatory responsible gambling training for staff, and the development of a national self-exclusion register.

Instead of denying the evidence in order to keep pushing their moral opposition to gambling, Australians would be better served by activists turning their attention to encouraging Australians to gamble responsibly and supporting the strong consumer protections offered by Australia’s closely regulated online wagering providers.

By contrast to online wagering operators, online casinos and pokies are unregulated and illegal in Australia, but Australians can still access overseas websites offering these games of chance.  As these pirate websites are totally unregulated their games can be accessed with absolutely no verification or identity checks.  This is a real and pressing risk to consumer safety. Especially when they freely and aggressively advertise online and across social media to the Australian market.

In this national GambleAware Week, here’s a worthy target for action that would make gambling safer and offer real consumer protections.

By Brent Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Responsible Wagering Australia.