Interview with Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan, ABC Brisbane Breakfast

CRAIG ZONCA, HOST: This figure just amazes me. $25 billion is what we apparently lose on legal forms of gambling each year in Australia. That represents some of the largest per capita losses in the world, I believe.

LORETTA RYAN, HOST: How can we – how can we even afford to lose that much money?

ZONCA: Astonishing, isn't it?

RYAN: Yeah. If you have found yourself dabbling in online gambling, though, have you ever used your credit card to place a bet?

ZONCA: Soon, you might not be able to. Today, the Federal Government introducing new legislation when it comes to online gambling. Michelle Rowland is the Federal Communications Minister. Good morning to you.


ZONCA: What are you introducing today?

ROWLAND: The Australian Government remains committed to protecting Australians from gambling harms, including those that you've just mentioned. What we're doing today is introducing legislation for a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling. This is going to help protect vulnerable Australians and their loved ones. Look, it's as simple as this. People should not be betting with money they do not have.

RYAN: What penalties will be in place then for companies who don't comply?

ROWLAND: There'll be fines of over $200,000 for companies who don't enforce it. We will also have a six-month transition period so that industry can get themselves ready for this introduction. Because, exactly as you say, the prevalence – particularly of online gambling – is on the rise, as are gambling losses. We want to do everything we can to help protect those vulnerable Australians.

RYAN: The idea is they can't use their credit card, they can still gamble, obviously. They'll use a debit card or something.

ROWLAND: They can use debit cards. This applies exclusively to credit cards. But here's the facts. Around 15 to 20 per cent of Australian customers use credit cards for online gambling and there is a high correlation between credit card use and gambling harms, and that's why we are introducing this ban.

RYAN: What about racing, for example? Horse racing, things like that? Can they still use their Visa card at the track?

ROWLAND: This applies only to online wagering, but there is also currently a limit on what people can use for land-based wagering as well. This is actually bringing the online gambling environment into line with land-based gambling. This has been in place in the UK for some years now, and it was actually recommended by a parliamentary committee in November 2021. This has been on the industry's agenda for a long time. It is necessary to bring land-based and online gambling on a level playing field. Also, as you can see from the rise in the numbers of losses and the harms done to Australians, this is absolutely a key component to keeping vulnerable Australians safe.

ZONCA: Minister, every time we talk about online gambling, we have a string of text messages and calls to the station saying, “Why not just ban the advertising of online gambling on our TV?” Why not go that far, Minister?

ROWLAND: We had a parliamentary inquiry into these very issues, which only recently handed down its findings, and it looks at a very broad scope of different harm minimisation techniques. They include advertising, sponsorship, some of the inducements that gambling companies provide to their customers. We're considering all of the recommendations here. We're consulting widely on how to implement them, but also on the impact. This is something that we take very seriously. We want to ensure that it's evidence-based, but most of all, we want to ensure that it's effective.

ZONCA: Because on a personal basis, how do you find it if you're sitting down to watch a game of Rugby League or AFL, and there are just – you seem to be bombarded by ads or online advertising, don't you?

ROWLAND: Indeed, very similar to, I think, most of your listeners and most Australians, there is grave concern about the level of online wagering advertising that is there at the moment. I'm on the record, and I say it again: the status quo that exists right now is unsustainable. But we need to look at ways in which this can be properly implemented, that doesn't have unintended consequences, and we can ensure that particularly vulnerable people and children are kept safe.

RYAN: What sort of figures do you have on the amount being lost on scratchies and lotto?

ROWLAND: That is actually lower. This is an issue that was considered as part of this ban. Lotteries, for example, are considered to be relatively low risk, as are, for example, charitable raffles and those types of lotteries. So, they aren't included here. What we are again taking is an evidence-based approach, and it's based on this one clear principle of harm minimisation. It's where the harms are the greatest, the government needs to have the greatest intervention and the most effective outcomes.

ZONCA: Well, this legislation going – is it going into the House today, have I got that right, Michelle Rowland?

ROWLAND: It certainly is, I'll be introducing it this morning. It has been based on not only an inquiry finding from some years ago, but we also conducted extensive consultation with the sector to ensure that it's one that's capable of implementation. Just as an example, there are many different forms of credit-like products that continue to emerge, and we want to make sure that we capture those products as well, as they're invented, as they come onto the market, so that there's no loopholes.


ZONCA: Yeah, I’d be very interested in chatting with you again if there are further restrictions around that advertising of online betting, as we spoke about too, Minister. Thanks for speaking with us this morning.

ROWLAND: A pleasure. Thank you very much.