Press conference: Ban on use of credit cards for online wagering

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning. The top priority of the Albanese Government is to keep Australians safe. In the Communications portfolio, this includes preventing harmful mis and disinformation from reaching Australian consumers, ensuring we have a robust eSafety framework, and ensuring that we protect Australians against scams.
It also includes protecting Australians in terms of online wagering. Harm minimisation is the key principle here. And consistent with that, Minister Rishworth and I are announcing today that the Albanese Government will legislate to ban the use of credit cards for online wagering. This brings it into line with other forms of land-based gambling which do not permit the use of credit cards.
We also wish to stress that this ban applies to credit cards. It does not apply to debit cards because here the message is simple: people should not be betting with money they don’t have. We know that some 15 to 20 per cent of online wagering is currently done with credit cards, and at the same time, we know that it’s that cohort which is the most susceptible, the most vulnerable, to greater harms that arise from gambling. It’s for this reason that the Albanese Government has decided to act on the findings of a 2021 Parliamentary Inquiry which recommended this ban.
We have been in close consultation with the sector, including the banking industry, to ensure that this ban is capable of implementation. We will continue to have those discussions and will broadly consult on that implementation to ensure that it is effective.  And also to ensure that the regulator – the Australian Communication and Media Authority – is properly allowed to do its job to ensure this ban comes into effect and is capable of having a measurable deference on people’s lives. Minister Rishworth.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR  SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you. Our Government has been focused since being elected on minimising the impact of online wagering, particularly harm minimisation. And when we look at the fact that interactive gambling has three times more likely to have problem gambling as opposed to land-based gambling, it is clear that we need to continue our efforts to protect people against some of the harms of online gambling.
Since I’ve been Minister, we have been implementing the last steps of the National Consumer Protection Framework, including consistent messaging as well as implementing the monthly activity reports that gives consumers a clear picture of how much they are actually losing when it comes to online gambling. This credit card ban is the next step to protect those from the harms of online gambling.
Let’s be clear: our Government is not against those wanting to have a punt, but when those people are – or some people are actually using credit, so they are using debt to actually facilitate online gambling – then we have a problem. As Minister Rowland said, 20 per cent of online gambling, online wagering, is done on a credit card. We are seeking to stop that. This does bring online wagering in line with land-based gambling. You can’t use a credit card at the pokies or in a casino, so it makes a lot of sense to ensure that this ban is extended to online gambling.
We look forward to legislating this later this year after consultation with industry. And it does add to a number of measures we’ve already taken. We also have the House of Representatives committee looking at what comes next in terms of harm minimisation for online wagering, and I look forward to their report being delivered shortly.
JOURNALIST: Can we just define the terms of it? When you talk about online gambling, are we talking about apps that people use, sporting apps? What’s the range of things that will be affected by this?
RISHWORTH: We will consider the breadth of scope during our consultation. But it is what is commonly known as your sports betting – online wagering websites, apps and interactive gambling online.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned up to 20 per cent of this online gambling is being done through credit. It’s incredibly concerning, incredibly high that people are gambling money that’s not theirs. What do you make of that?
ROWLAND: It is a great concern, and I think that is evidenced by the fact that there is some 80 per cent community support for this ban. There is also widespread support across the sector as a whole, including the banking sector, wagering, consumer groups and other advocacy groups. We consider that this is opportune to implement this ban. We will seek to introduce legislation before the end of this year. We do have a preferred model on how this will be implemented, but we will consult on that as well because it is one thing to announce a ban, but also we need to ensure that it is capable of implementation.
JOURNALIST: Have you got any idea of the quantum, if it’s 20 per cent, of the 20 per cent in dollar terms? Do you know how much money is being put on the credit card for gambling?
ROWLAND: Well, we know that it is a high amount of gambling losses that are in Australia. And when you consider that in terms of online wagering, there is some 15 to 20 per cent there. It is a high amount.
RISHWORTH: Yeah it is. We don’t have the specific figures that are being put on credit, but if we look at gambling losses across the country – about $25 billion – that’s both land based as well as online wagering. So when we think about the growing amount of interactive gambling, online gambling growing quite significantly, then that 20 per cent is a pretty significant figure.
ROWLAND: It’s also instructive to note that in the UK where a similar ban was instituted their gambling regulator undertook evidence-based studies following that ban and found that it did have a demonstrable impact on reducing the harms – of that particularly vulnerable cohort. We are confident that this will have a measurable difference in terms of gambling-related harms and losses.
JOURNALIST: Have you received any feedback at all from the banks about the capacity for this to be essentially fudged, that these companies can be flexible and alive to threats to their business model – in other words, that they can – how sure can you be that you can re-fence this and make sure it works?
ROWLAND: Certainly they are very alive to this, and whilst payment systems are complex, they are not beyond the wit of governments and industry to make this work. For example, the preferred model that we are taking is ensuring that the identifier of the card is utilised –the one that distinguishes it being a credit or a debit card. There are some other identifiers that go towards the merchant category. Within a category you have a range of gambling services – they include lotteries, for example, and other services that are offered by newsagents and other charitable organisations. There is another option of having a voluntary code.
We have determined as a Government that we will employ the first option, which is the identifying codes on the credit card itself that says it is a credit card because we want to ensure that we don’t inadvertently bring in those lower risk areas. For example, lotteries that are sold through newsagents and other charitable organisations that we don't want to have impacted.
In our discussions with the banking sector, we know that this is capable of implementation. But it is important that we have consultation before this legislation is introduced, and we are confident that in conjunction with additional powers that will be given to the regulator, that we will be able to implement a robust scheme that is capable of making that difference.
RISHWORTH: And I’ll just add, in addition to the robust scheme, online wagering companies have said they support this move. They understand that they operate on a social licence as well as, of course, the regulation. And so I would hope if they in principle support this measure that they would back that up with action.
JOURNALIST: So just to confirm, lotteries won’t be included in this? So you can buy a lottery ticket online?
ROWLAND: They will be excluded.
JOURNALIST: So obviously a lot of the jurisdictions that have legislative power around gambling harm is state based and territory based. What is your – what mechanisms are you going to use? You indicated that you want to do more, so what’s going to be the process? Are you going to have, you know, like a low-level COAG, if you like, of all the ministers responsible at state and commonwealth level about gambling minimisation to see if these things can be –

RISHWORTH: I’ve already convened the first meeting of gambling ministers. It was the first meeting convened since 2017. As we come to the end of the consumer framework, which was a joint initiative between state and territories and the Commonwealth, including implementing the new consistent gambling messaging, including the activity reports that people are getting every month, I convened the ministers to say what’s next, what is the next steps? There is an appetite to have that discussion to how we implement more measures when it comes to harm minimisation.
Many of the consumer framework measures have required cooperation from states and territories and the Commonwealth. And I’ve been very heartened and pleased by the appetite of states and territories along with the Commonwealth to take more steps to minimise gambling harm for online wagering.
ROWLAND: And to complement that work, we also currently have on foot the announcement of changes to the classification framework which, in turn, requires the cooperation of the States and Territories. This includes having specific ratings that apply to simulated gambling online and also to loot boxes. That is being undertaken now in consultation with the States and Territories, and that complements the work that is being done in the consumer space by the Minister [for Social Services].
JOURNALIST: So do you see any commonwealth pressure being brought to bear on jurisdictions – I’m thinking very much here of New South Wales, which has just gone through an election won by the Labor Party. Gambling harm was an issue in that. Some argue that it – well, Labor didn’t go as far as the previous government was willing to go on gambling harm reduction in New South Wales. Will you be bringing pressure to bear on New South Wales as part of what you say the Albanese government wants to reduce harm and keep Australian people safe? Will you bring pressure on New South Wales to do more on gambling?
RISHWORTH: I look forward to very productive conversations with the new New South Wales government. Our focus has been on online wagering in particular. That is the role where there is a shared responsibility directly between the Commonwealth and states and territories. And that has been where our focus has been about how we reduce the risks of online gambling. We know particularly during the Covid period that there had been an escalation in online gambling and, indeed, very concerning reports that the early release of superannuation was actually used during the Covid period to do online gambling.
Not only that, we also know, as I said previously, interactive online gamblers are three times more likely to be problem gamblers. So our focus has been on the online wagering system where we have shared responsibility between the states and territories and where there’s a lot of work to be done.
ROWLAND: Thank you very much.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.