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Digital technologies are rapidly changing Australia’s gambling industry.
The 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering (the Review) noted that online wagering is the fastest growing gambling segment, with over $1.4 billion gambled online each year. Digital technology is also enabling operators to reach our phones, our televisions, our home computers at any time of the day or night.
The Review also noted that Australians are losing between $64 million and $400 million every year betting in illegal offshore sites, and this means tax revenue is also lost. In the online world, the proportion of problem gambling is three times higher than in other forms of gambling*.
The Government is delivering on its commitments outlined in the Response to the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering with stronger consumer protection as the centrepiece of these reforms.
Government’s Response to Illegal Offshore Wagering
On 28 April 2016, the Government announced its response to the recommendations of the Review, supporting 18 of the Review’s 19 recommendations. This commitment included a three-staged approach:
- The establishment of a National Consumer Protection Framework (National Framework) for online wagering, was announced on 30 November 2018.
- Amending the law to make it clear that it is illegal for unlicensed overseas gambling companies to offer gambling products to Australians. The Australian Communications and Media Authority is empowered to have stronger enforcement mechanisms, enacted in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2017.
- Investigating the feasibility of other disruptions measures to curb illegal offshore gambling activity. The Government is implementing a website blocking scheme to protect Australians from illegal offshore gambling websites, as announced by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts on 11 November 2019. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will use its powers to work in cooperation with Australian internet service providers to block illegal offshore gambling websites which are prohibited services under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
‘Better Choices’ – Enhancing informed decision-making for online wagering consumers
The Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has released their findings from a randomised trial to determine the effect of activity statement features, to help consumers make informed decisions about their online wagering.
The aim of the trial was to design activity statement prototypes and test the effect of those activity statements on gambling behaviours in a simulated online betting environment.
BETA’s report, Better Choices – Enhancing informed decision-making for online wagering consumers, provides recommendations of activity statement prototypes including design and content features which are most likely to influence and empower consumers to make informed decisions about their online wagering activity.
The Commonwealth and state and territory governments are currently considering the findings of this report which are expected to inform the implementation of the ‘activity statements’ measure of the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering.
The full report is available at https://behaviouraleconomics.pmc.gov.au/projects/applying-behavioural-insights-online-wagering.
National Self-Exclusion Register legislation
On 12 December 2019, legislation providing for the National Self-Exclusion Register (Register) for online wagering received Royal Assent. This included the Interactive Gambling Amendment (National Self‑exclusion Register) Act 2019 and the National Self‑exclusion Register (Cost Recovery Levy) Act 2019.
The Register will allow consumers to exclude themselves from all interactive wagering services in Australia, quickly and easily, through a single process. This will meet a critical gap in consumer protection for Australians who participate in online wagering. The Register is a key measure under the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering.
The legislation allows the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to procure an independent third party technology provider to supply, operate and maintain the Register. Additionally, the legislation will give the ACMA the necessary powers to regulate and enforce industry compliance in how it interacts with and funds the Register.
National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering – Baseline Study Final Report.
On 24 November 2019, the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Anne Ruston released the final report of the National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering (National Framework) baseline study.
The aim of the study was to establish base levels of online wagering involvement, the prevalence of risky gambling behaviour, and levels of online wagering consumer harm, ahead of the full implementation of the National Framework. The baseline study sets a benchmark to inform future evaluation activities to determine the effectiveness of the National Framework.
Undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies the independent study involved an online consumer survey with over 5,000 people who wager online, a review of online wagering service providers’ and gambling regulators’ websites, and interviews with online wagering service providers and regulators.
Over half of the survey participants (52 per cent) were classified as being at risk-of or already experiencing gambling-related harm. This confirms the actions of all Australian Governments to implement the National Framework, and to ensure that it keeps pace with best practice consumer protection and changes in technology over time.
The Report includes recommendations for Government on the implementation of the National Framework and for the future evaluation phases of the National Framework.
- National Consumer Protection Framework for online wagering – Baseline Study Final Report
- Media release – National Self-Exclusion Register to help reduce harm from online wagering
On 26 February 2019, new rules came into force that significantly reduce the customer verification period for new online wagering consumers from 90 days to a maximum of 14 days. This is the first measure delivered under the National Framework, since its announcement late 2018. The measure will be reviewed in 12 months with the intention of further reducing the verification period to 72 hours.
National Framework announcement
On 30 November 2018, the Commonwealth made a public announcement of the joint National Framework. This has been developed in close consultation with the state and territory governments and key stakeholders over two years.
The National Framework provides – for the first time – strong, nationally consistent protections for consumers of Australian interactive wagering providers.
Restrictions on gambling advertising
On 6 May 2017, former Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts, announced the Broadcast and Content Reform Package. The package includes further restrictions on gambling advertising in live sporting events across all platforms to reduce the exposure of children to gambling.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has also implemented the restrictions for online platforms. These new rules came into effect on 28 September 2018 and mark the first time ‘broadcast like’ restrictions have been applied to online content services in Australia, providing consistency across broadcast, subscription and online.
On 30 March 2018, the gambling advertising restrictions commenced following the registration of revised broadcast industry codes of practice by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Betting restrictions and online wagering in Australia - A review of current knowledge
The Betting restrictions and online wagering in Australia – A review of current knowledge is a report prepared by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC), Australian Institute of Family Studies, and commissioned by the Department of Social Services.
In September 2015, the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering recommended that further research be undertaken on the impact of betting restrictions imposed by Australian licensed bookmakers on illegal offshore wagering and the identification of options to improve the situation.
In responding to Recommendation 15 of the Review, the Commonwealth Government commissioned the AGRC to investigate the current extent of betting restrictions and the impact of these restrictions in driving consumers to illegal offshore wagering operators.
The AGRC’s report, Betting restrictions and online wagering in Australia – A Review of current knowledge, provides a range of options for consideration, noting its interaction with other reform areas and the need for further research. The Commonwealth and state and territory governments are currently considering the findings of this report.