16 March 2021

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (14:23): My question is to Minister Hume, representing the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. The pandemic crisis has been a time of heightened stress, anxiety and depression, and has worsened gambling addiction in vulnerable Australians. Online bookies have made a killing during the pandemic. In Australia, credit cards can be used when gambling online but credit cards cannot be used offline in a licensed gambling venue or casino. The UK banned the use of credit cards for both online and offline betting in April last year, recognising that this will significantly reduce the extent of harm to vulnerable people. Why does the Morrison government still allow online betting with credit cards and not legislate to ban the practice, as the UK has done?

Senator HUME (VictoriaMinister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy) (14:23): Thank you, Senator Griff, for your question and for your ongoing commitment to vulnerable Australians, particularly in the area of problem gambling.

You're correct: last year the UK banned gamblers from using credit cards to pay for bets, and that was for both online and offline gambling. It also applies to e-wallets, a new pattern which we're seeing emerge in paying for online betting. In the name of consumer protection, that's particularly because of evidence and anecdotes of online gambling increasing throughout the period of coronavirus in the UK. There is also anecdotal evidence of that occurring in Australia.

As you'd know, regulation of gambling and gaming is predominantly a state based responsibility. However, the government is always interested to learn what's being done in other jurisdictions to protect vulnerable communities, and there is no doubt that digital technologies like e-wallets are rapidly changing the way that people choose to gamble. In November 2018 the coalition government, in conjunction with state and territory governments, launched the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering in Australia, to provide much stronger consumer protections for Australians who are gambling online. They include things like prohibition of online wagering services from providing credit to people who gamble on their site or on an app and things like prohibition of the use of payday lenders for online betting. They include customer verification requirements, restrictions on inducement and account closures, including voluntary opt-out precommitment schemes, activity statements and consistent gambling messages, as well as staff training and the National Self-Exclusion Register. The Commonwealth will be responsible for implementing measures such as this new online National Self-Exclusion Register, which allows people to self-exclude from all online wagering sites and apps in one go. (Time expired)

Senator GRIFF : Minister, you are correct about gambling falling under the states, but credit cards fall under federal, so that's why it's appropriate that it's dealt with here. Last year I introduced legislation to ban the use of credit cards for online gambling. I wrote to the minister for communications on the issue, and his response was: 'The implementation of a ban on the use of credit cards to deposit funds into online wagering accounts is not currently within the scope of the Morrison government's online gambling reforms.' Why is such a reform not within the scope—

Senator HUME : Again, thank you, Senator Griff. I can say to you that, in December 2019, the Australian Banking Association, the ABA, released a consultation paper seeking the views of the public on exactly this issue, the use of credit cards in gambling. Submissions to that process closed in March last year. Minister Fletcher and Minister Ruston, as the relevant ministers, are due to meet with the ABA on this very issue in the coming weeks. As I said before, the state and territory governments have the primary responsibility for the regulation and licensing of providers and the premises in which gambling products are available. The government will continue to monitor this issue to determine whether government intervention is required. However, in the meantime, the National Self-Exclusion Register is just one measure of the national framework for which the Commonwealth government is responsible. Self-exclusion is a consumer protection tool aimed at individuals who are at risk of or who are already experiencing significant levels of harm from online wagering.

Senator GRIFF : Coalition MP Andrew Wallace has recently advocated for a ban on the use of credit cards for online bets and met with major banks, who are all apparently 'in furious agreement' that action is needed. In fact, in a story of a week ago, the ANZ bank is quoted as being 100 per cent in agreement. Has the government met with any particular bank on this issue—you did state that you were also meeting with the ABA—and what action has been taken?

Senator HUME : I personally haven't met with any bank on this particular issue, but, as we said, Minister Fletcher and Minister Ruston will be meeting with the ABA, who represent the banks collectively, and will be discussing this issue further. In the meantime, the National Self-Exclusion Register, as I said, is only one measure. In 2019 legislation passed, in this very place, to enable the establishment of that register, and the register will allow those who are experiencing gambling harm to immediately exclude themselves from the services that are offered by all interactive wagering service providers, with the click of one button. The implementation of this register is very much on track. The request for tender is currently underway to select an organisation to operate that register. Although many individual Australian interactive gambling providers currently offer consumers the option to exclude themselves from opening an account with that particular provider, there is no national self-exclusion system available that applies to all providers, so this is a significant leap forward.

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