For the past year, we’ve been pushing for an end to the use of credit cards for online gambling, and we’re starting to see some real movement on this issue.
Our stance on this is based on a simple fact; gambling companies shouldn’t be able to profit from money people don’t have. There are inherent risks associated with gambling with credit, including losing all of ones’ assets and then quickly accumulating large sums of unsecured debt. Credit cards also have high interest rates and are therefore an expensive source of debt. When used for gambling, they attract exorbitant cash advance fees which can further exacerbate harm.
According to Paul, who has experienced gambling harm, credit cards for online gambling are just as dangerous as credit offered by gambling companies:
“Through my experience with credit cards and credit from betting agencies, it is extremely dangerous for people experiencing gambling issues. Credit is exactly that, it’s not money that is your’s. Whether it be credit offered from a bank or a betting agency it can lead you into a huge amount of debt. When the financial situation gets into such a serious situation it also leads you into thoughts of obtaining money illegally, stealing, robbery, drug trafficking that can be taken out. I believe that no forms of any credit ought to be deposited into any online betting account.”
Despite this harm, and the fact that credit cards are banned for land based gambling (such as poker machines), our laws haven’t caught up to prevent their use for gambling online. That could soon change though; at the moment, there are two Federal parliamentary committees looking into blocking the use of credit cards for online sports gambling.
As Gavin has told us
“I used credit to gamble. I am now bankrupt with my family in severe financial distress. There must be legislative intervention to stop the problem gambler from accessing credit. A problem gambler will justify without a moment of consideration that they can easily make the money and interest back. In fact, a problem gambler will think it's a great strategy!”
Responsible Wagering Australia (ha! there's a name we would all challenge) have given up the fight. Or, as they said, they’ve “read the room”. They no longer oppose the idea of a credit card ban. This is a significant change, which they announced the day before appearing as witnesses at the Joint Parliamentary committee looking into credit card and digital wallet use for online gambling.
Dr Mark Zirnzak, our Deputy Chair, and Dr Kate da Costa, our Head of campaigns, also appeared as witnesses before the same Committee on August 13 2021. Building on Senator Stirling Griff’s suggested amendments, the Committee is looking to expand the existing ban on bookmakers offering credit, to include the use of credit cards. They are also considering new payment methods, like digital wallets (like ApplePay), where the funds might come from a credit card - it is possible to ensure that the coding of these prevents funds that come from credit cards being used to pay gambling merchants.
The Alliance presented evidence based on our work with the NSW Department of Liquor and Gaming around digital wallets being trialled for use on poker machines. We also highlighted the limited evidence from Nevada, where digital wallets are in use.
We argued strongly against Responsible Wagering Australia’s suggestions that the gambling and banking sectors could be trusted to come up with a self-regulated code of conduct. We think that only legislation will achieve the ban on credit that provides safety.
From their comments and body language, the Parliamentary Committee wasn’t convinced by Responsible Wagering Australia either.
With new, better laws looking likely, this potentially huge win is also a chance to shout out the people who helped make this change possible; the lived experience advocates who have told their stories through our Voices program. Without their testimony and advice, our submissions to the Parliamentary inquiries would have been far less powerful, and without people speaking up about the harm gambling with credit has caused them, it's possible the inquiries wouldn't have been called in the first place.
If you’d like to know more about our Voices program, here’s the link.
If you are interested in more details, our submission to the Senate Inquiry into Interactive Gambling Amendments is here, and our submission to the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry is here. They're very similar, as the inquiries are investigating different ways to achieve the same outcome.