New legislation that would prohibit gamblers from being able to use their credit cards to place wagers online or via mobile apps has been ratified by the lower house of the Australian parliament.
Known as the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023, the measure was ratified by the Labor-controlled Australian House of Representatives on Tuesday and is now scheduled to be put up for debate before the Australian Senate.
Introduced into the 151-seat house in September, the legislation is an effort by the Labor-led government of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to implement recommendations contained within the 2021 inquiry from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. Passage of the bill by the Australian Senate and its subsequent assent by Governor‑General David Hurley would officially incorporate online betting sites and apps into a credit card use ban that has existed for land-based venues including casinos since 2000.
Ratification of the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 would also ban punters from using digital currencies such as Bitcoin to pay for online gambling or sports betting. To help police the prohibition, the bill additionally calls for an expansion of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s powers and allow the regulator to hit uncooperative financial institutions and operators with individual penalties of up to $234,750.
Michelle Rowland serves as the Communications Minister for Australia and she heralded the lower house’s passage of the legislation due to her belief that ‘people should not be betting with money they do not have’. The 51-year-old Sydney native stated that the measure would moreover institute a six-month transition period following assent and bestow her department with ‘future proof’ powers ‘to prohibit additional credit-related products as they emerge’.
“The Australian Government remains committed to protecting Australians from gambling harms,” Rowland said.
“Legislating a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling will help to protect vulnerable Australians and their loved ones. I would like to thank the wide variety of stakeholders including harm reduction advocates, wagering and lottery providers and banking payment organizations for their contributions to and support for this bill.”
The approval of the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 comes almost eight months after the Australian Banking Association called on the Albanese Government to ban credit card use in online sports betting and gambling due to the growing dearth of vital regulations prevailing in an industry thought to be annually worth at least $50 billion. This powerful body’s current Chief Executive Officer, Anna Bligh, was working in the Queensland government when territories and states began prohibiting credit card payments in land-based gambling venues and asserted it should not ‘be possible to do something in the virtual world that is prohibited in the real world’.
“Every pub with poker machines, every TAB and every trackside bookie already implemented this 23 years ago,” Bligh said in March. “This is just a product that is not suitable for credit as you can accrue a very, very large amount of debt in an incredibly short period of time and have nothing to show for it.”
For her part, the Social Services Minister for Australia, Amanda Rishworth, declared that the Albanese Government is ‘serious about protecting vulnerable Australians from the harm we know online gambling can cause’ and has ‘prioritized addressing the harm caused by online gambling’ since being elected in May of 2022. The Adelaide-born legislator went on to express pleasure at being able to take ‘the next step’ in this safeguarding process before praising the measure’s inclusion of financial penalties for ‘any platform breaching the new rules’.
“You can’t use your credit card to place a bet for land-based gambling and the same rules should apply for online gambling too,” Rishworth said. “We know minimizing the harm caused by online gambling is not a set-and-forget exercise and I look forward to working with my state and territory counterparts on what comes next to continue this positive change.”