Alan Tudge MP

Alan Tudge wants to tackle problem gambling by introducing registers to allow gamblers to self-exclude. The gambling amendments still don’t offer any solutions on licensing, however. (Image: AFP)

Problem gambling is becoming an issue Down Under, and now ministers are trying to tackle the issue.

But rather than drastically cut the booming number of land-based pokies Australia has, or limiting players’ bets, a new framework is being drawn up to protect Aussies from…online gambling.

The Federal Government struck a deal in principle last week to set up a new National Consumer Protection Framework for online sites. State and territory ministers are on-board with the move.

Citing the 800,000 online accounts owned by Australians betting on the web, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has set up an 11-point plan to help put into place protective measures.

Measures In Place To Limit Gambling Debt

A second reading of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was put through the House earlier in the month. Mr. Tudge cited that the rate of problem gambling among online gamblers was around 3-to-1 compared to offline bettors. 2.7 percent of online gamblers Down Under have some form of gambling addiction, he said, compared to 0.9 of gamblers playing in casinos and pubs.

“Most people gamble responsibly, they enjoy a punt and hundreds of thousands of people do so every day, but there are some people who literally bankrupt themselves,” Mr. Tudge stated.

Agreed in principle last week were several measures, including a self-exclusion register rolled out across the whole country for players who gamble online, a blanket ban on credit being given to Aussies, and a voluntary pre-commitment arrangement for gamblers.

Illegal Offshore Sites To Close In Oz?

A major review of online betting in Australia was ordered last year, with the recommendations only coming in earlier this year.

The outmoded Interactive Gambling Act 2001 is set to be revamped, with more pressure put on offshore betting sites who offer services Down Under.

While some major offshore sportsbetting sites operate in Oz under Northern Territory licenses, many online poker and casino rooms continue to offer real-money games unchecked. Short of shutting down servers, there is little the government can do other than introduce a proper licensing scheme for overseas operators.

However, with plenty of grumbles from the powerful clubs lobbies who operate thousands of land-based pokies, it’s unlikely that Australia will start handing out online casino licenses anytime soon.

Already, the world’s largest poker site PokerStars has intimated it will pull out of the Aussie market altogether if the amended bill goes through.

The Amaya-owned poker room has been moving out of some of its ‘grey’ legal regions of late, and Australia could be next.

So far, there is no law to stop Aussies playing online at poker sites and no prosecutions have ever been made Down Under under the IGA 2001.

Sportsbetting Sites To Be Reined In

Another bone of contention for critics of Australia’s current laws is the way overseas sportsbetting sites have navigated the rules on in-play wagers.

Under the 2001 IGA, “in-running” bets (wagers made during the course of a match or game) are only permitted in person at a TAB or over the phone. Sites began introducing ‘click to call’ bets which allowed the user’s computer to complete the bets in quick time.

The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) cried foul, but in some cases the federal police were unwilling to act. The proposed gambling bill amendment will clarify the position of click-to-call by banning them outright.

The ACMA will also receive bigger powers to crack down on operators who flout the law.