Gambling giant Tabcorp says it would not oppose any potential ban on Australians punting with their credit cards as long as local newsagents were still able to sell lottery tickets to customers.
The ASX-listed wagering, media and lottery company also says the accelerated switch towards online betting during the pandemic has brought about the need for far greater federal government intervention to protect vulnerable Australians.
Federal Parliament is considering an overhaul of gambling laws to ban punters from using credit cards or “digital wallets” for online gambling in Australia.
Parliament is considering an overhaul of gambling laws to ban punters from using credit cards or “digital wallets” for online gambling in Australia. A change would bring internet betting in line with laws that govern casinos, TAB outlets and gaming lounges and ban cash advances from nearby ATMs.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, Tabcorp has proposed the Commonwealth take responsibility for gambling regulation through the establishment of a single national wagering regulator.
The licensing and regulation of wagering has historically been the responsibility of state and territory governments. Many overseas-owned online-only gambling companies are licensed in the Northern Territory but in recent years have agreed to pay more than $1 billion to the states in point of consumption taxes and product fees.
Responsible Wagering Australia, the peak body representing foreign owned bookmakers including bet365, Betfair, Ladbrokes and Sportsbet, is opposed to the ban and says there is no compelling evidence to indicate a direct link between the use of credit cards across online betting platforms and the incidence of problem gambling.
Tabcorp said a nation-wide harmonisation of gambling regulations would be of greater benefit than just a credit card ban and would ensure integrity and consistency in the application and enforcement of laws. It would include a central point of licensing and regulation of online gambling companies to ensure that there are adequate consumer protections.
Tabcorp, whose wagering arm has lost ground to online rivals including Sportsbet and Ladbrokes in the past 12 months, said the forced shutdown of its retail venues during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many changes.
“Customers who traditionally place cash bets in the supervised environment of a retail venue have opened online gambling accounts to continue enjoying a bet on races and sport,” Tabcorp said. “Some of these customers who have transition to online betting will not come back to place bets in retail venues.”
A recent survey by the Australian Gambling Research Centre found that before COVID-19, 62 per cent of participants’ gambling was conducted online which grew to 78 per cent during the
Tabcorp warned there would be unintended consequences on customers, the racing industry, and lottery and newsagents by using technology to ban credit purchases. It said the industry would need a year-long transition period would be required should it be implemented.
It argued lottery customers had a “very low incidence of problem gambling” and would be unnecessarily inconvenience by further restrictions or a ban.
“Over 40 per cent of lottery customers use credit cards for convenience and often purchase lottery products as a lifestyle choice in a bundle with other everyday lifestyle consumer products (i.e. a magazine, birthday card, milk etc),” it said.
Liberal MP Andrew Wallace has led the push for a ban on gamblers using credit cards online, telling parliament they faced high interest rates and a high chance of loss that was deeply problematic for families.
“I don’t mind so much if someone wants to gamble their own money away, provided they can feed their kids, put shoes on their feet, send them to school and pay their bills,” Mr Wallace said.
“The states and territories have all banned the use of credit cards from places like TABs, from poker machines, from casinos and RSLs et cetera. There’s one place you can still use your credit card to gamble, and that’s on the internet. We as the Commonwealth government control that space, and we need to do better than we are doing right now.”
Banks such as Citibank, Suncorp, and Macquarie have all made the decision to ban credit cards for gambling but the big four banks are still considering the proposition.
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