Free bet changes mooted

April 28, 2017

Government cracks down on free bets and credit betting

The Government taskforce for responsible gambling led by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, has announced plans to abolish free bets and line of credit betting, in an attempt to crack down on problem gambling.

The move is a sign that the The National Consumer Protection Framework set up by the federal government is serious about reducing the negative impact online wagering is having on some individuals. Only, last December, the consumer protection group drafted changes to ban illegal offshore wagering – a change supported by the state and territory governments as well as online bookmakers.

As these mooted changes are implemented via the various state bodies, credit betting; whereby a bookie lends money to a customer to bet with, will no longer be available to Australian punters. Another of the supported changes is the move to provide stricter self-exclusion limits for all players. Both measures are designed to reduce the instances of problem gambling.

Of particular interest, are the proposed changes to ban inducements provided by bookmakers to open new betting accounts. The taskforce broadly supports a ban of this nature, but so far has been unable to agree on the specifics. It must be pointed out, that the move to tighten restrictions on enticements to new customers, is nothing new to the Australian industry. As it currently stands, residents of Victoria, NSW, SA and WA are excluded from free bet offers that involve opening a new account. In fact, it is this very restriction that has led to the explosion of bonus bet offers to existing customers, as online betting agencies have found a way to appeal to residents of these ineligible states.

Whether or not the mooted changes will affect the bonuses offered to existing customers on sports like AFL and horse racing is unclear. Whilst, all of these changes are supported by the taskforce, they are really just scratching the surface according to Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce chair Tim Costello. Costello believes that a ban on siren-to-siren betting ads would have greater impact on influencing those who may be vulnerable to the lure of betting companies. If implemented, a move of this nature would be effective in shielding underage viewers from wagering companies. However, banning ads during live sports coverage is not so simple, there are many vested interests; including the sporting bodies themselves, as bookmakers indirectly contribute the lucrative broadcast deals that they benefit from.

Whatever the case, it is heartening to see positive changes to the online sports betting industry. Australians love to have a bet, and will always do so, events like the Melbourne Cup are etched into our sporting culture and folklore. However, we must endeavour to protect those vulnerable from gambling addiction.

We encourage anyone who is concerned about their wagering habits, or those of others, to visit the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation website.

problem gambling taskforce head Alan Judge