The Australia Senate has approved legislation to prohibit the use of credit cards for online gambling in the country, with a near-blanket ban set to come into effect within six months.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023 was introduced in September. This legislation seeks to ban credit cards and other credit-related products, as well as digital currencies, in Australia.

Australia’s House of Representatives passed the bill last month, allowing it to progress to the Senate. Today (6 December), the Senate also approved the legislation, clearing the way for it to pass into law.

The country already has a ban in place on gambling with credit cards at land-based venues. This means the bill effectively places a blanket ban on credit card gambling across Australia.

What is in the credit card bill?

Aside from a ban on credit products, the bill features several other related measures. These include fines of up to AU$234,750 (£122,475/€143,003/US$154,282) for operators that do not enforce the ban.

The bill also grants new powers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Such powers include enforcing new and existing penalty provisions and taking responsibility for issuing penalties to those breaching the ban.

However, the bill will not come into effect immediately. The Australia government previously said it would run a six-month transition period to allow operators, payment providers and consumers to move in line with the new rules. This period will begin once the bill receives royal assent.

The bill is the result of in-depth and widespread consultation with many stakeholders. These include operators, harm reduction advocates, wagering and lottery providers and banking payment organisations.

Responsible Wagering Australia questions keno and lotteries exclusion

One of the leading advocates for a credit card ban, Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), welcomed news of the bill’s approval. RWA CEO Kai Cantwell said the change was needed and that Australians should only be gambling with money they have.

“This is an important measure to protect customers and their loved ones, making it easier for people to stay in control of their own gambling behaviour,” Cantwell said. “It will complement the existing offering of safer gambling account management tools by RWA members to customers to help them stay in control of their betting.”

However, Cantwell hit out at the decision to exclude certain types of gambling from the ban. Consumers will still be able to use credit cards to play lotteries and keno. Cantwell said this was “disappointing” as lotteries are the most prevalent form of gambling in Australia and commonly accessed by people in low socioeconomic communities.

“The latest Australian Gambling Statistics show that Australians lost most than $3.20bn on lotteries and keno in 2020-21,” Cantwell said. “With the introduction of online keno in Victoria, keno losses increased more than 400% from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

“Lotteries were also exempt from the National Self Exclusion Register, Betstop, meaning that Australians who have self-excluded from online gambling are not precluded from gambling up to $10,000 online at a time through lotteries.”

Campaigners push for blanket ban

With this in mind, Cantwell and RWA are calling for a complete blanket ban on using credit cards for any form of gambling.

“To effectively reduce gambling harm, consumer protection measures must exist across all forms of gambling, otherwise those at risk of harm will just move from one form of gambling to another less regulated type,” Cantwell said.

“RWA members have been working with the federal government and the financial services industry to deliver this credit card ban since 2021. We will continue to engage productively to ensure the ban can be implemented effectively within six months.”

Credit card ban a long time coming in Australia

The bill implements recommendations set out by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services from November 2021. However, efforts to outlaw credit card use in online gambling have been ongoing for some time.

In December 2019, the Australian Banking Association hosted a consultation on credit cards in gambling. The initiative ran to March 2020 and also looked at how banks can help better protect players.

Calls for a ban grew louder in spring 2020 when Great Britain introduced a ban on credit card gambling.

Against this background, certain parties chose to effectively jump the gun and put in place their own bans. This included consumer-owned banking group Bank Australia, which in October 2021 announced account holders could no longer to use its credit cards to fund gambling.

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