New Victorian gambling changes

A bevy of online gambling regulations and reforms being introduced in Victoria will do very little to minimize the dangers and harms caused by sports betting without bans on advertising on gambling and only directly increases in taxes paid by the online bookmakers, industry experts think.

Starting Sunday, sports-betting companies will be definitively banned from the possibility of offering accounts credit to play with of any form, vouchers or any kind of rewards that would incentivize the advertising of the company in closed circles, to friends or family. Operators will also be prohibited from offering complimentary bets that force account holders to use any winnings to continue to gamble.

Consumers will also be obliged to opt-in order to receive the direct offers for marketing, from a service that provides full wagering support, and will have the possibility to set limits and limitations more easily, concerning the amount that can be deposited at once into their accounts. Another solved problem is the fact that closing a betting account will not be such a hassle anymore, players being able to block their access, restrict certain parts or downright close their accounts more easily.

The new and improved reform follows the National Consumer Protection Framework for wagering in the online environment, signed by all state gaming ministers in ratified later in the year, in November. The NCPF is endorsed and supported strongly by the online industry’s trade association, Responsible Wagering Australia, and states and territories were given an 18-month deadline to introduce the reforms. Victoria is the first state to do so.

Alliance for Gambling Reform communications adviser, Stephen Mayne, declared publicly that while the reforms were timely and very welcome, they would definitely first target existing account holders. However, account holders who used to be problem gamblers or are still struggling with the issues were highly unlikely to understand that they have a problem, admit it and seek help, so that’s why these actions were put in place to further come in the defense of those who cannot control themselves.

“The industry signed up to these reforms because they know they already have five million customers signed up and that you can’t put the genie back into the bottle,” Mayne said. “The online betting companies have already entrenched themselves in people’s lives and they are comfortable they will still make big profits despite the NCPF agreement.

“They haven’t signed up to or been forced into any restriction on advertising, and last year sports betting spent almost $300m on television advertising to attract new customers. So they voluntarily signed up to these harm minimization measures in order to avoid really important reforms to their taxes and advertising.”

The federal government can freely and without any limitation tax and regulate any type of bookies uniformly, it does not, at least in the current state, with the current regulation that is left to the state and governments territory do much more. The majority of bookies operate out of the Northern Territory due to its low-tax regime and less-restrictive regulations.

This was also considered to be a big problem and difficulty in the future, as per Prof. Charles Livingstone own public statements. The gambling researcher and lecturer at Monash University of Melbourne stated the following:

“Interactive gambling is clearly a constitutional responsibility of the Australian government and many of the issues around patchy and ineffective regulation of online gambling could be resolved by the government regulating online gambling directly, providing consistent taxation and enforcement, and distributing revenue to the states on the basis of where bets are placed,” he said.

“The current patchwork arrangements do not effectively protect consumers and have led to a ‘race to the bottom’ on regulation and taxation, which the Northern Territory has clearly won given that the overwhelming majority of online providers are registered in that jurisdiction, where they pay little if any, tax.”

The government in Victoria did not respond immediately to the many questions about penalties for reforms-breach and how it would be imposed and protected against a breach. The Professor also declared that he would impose severe penalties on and against agencies that fail to respect the reforms and use approved practices.

“There are a few large and a number of small operators, and the large ones have their market share pretty much under control at present,” Livingstone said. “They will not be too troubled by these measures. A more comprehensive set of reforms are needed to make sure that those who do gamble online are required to make a conscious and binding decision in advance of gambling about how much they’re prepared to gamble and lose, and effective penalties and sanctions need to be implemented and where necessary imposed.

“These should include loss or suspension of licenses.”