Sat, Mar 18, 10:48am by Staff Writer
As a parliamentary committee continues to debate the intricacies of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB), the focus has narrowed on the concept of a national self-exclusion registry for online gamblers suffering from addiction.
During hearings held by the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on March 7, lawmakers listened to testimony from various experts and stakeholders on the issue.
The debate centred around a proposal put forth by fierce gambling reformer Senator Nick Xenophon, and his ascendant cross-bench party the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), which would allow Australians to bar themselves from all online gambling activity.
Currently, Part 4 of the Independent Gambling Authority Act (IGAA) of 1995 allows for barring orders to be put in place, either voluntarily or at the direction of operators, which ban known problem gamblers from partaking. However, this protection only extends to casinos, pokie pubs, and other brick and mortar venues, leaving online gamblers who wish to curtail their habit to fend for themselves.
Those players can contact online gambling sites individually to request exclusion, but that measure only bars them from a single platform with hundreds more waiting online.
Senator Xenophon and his anti-gambling allies are calling for a comprehensive nationwide registry which would connect barring orders and requests across all online gambling operators.
During her testimony to the committee, Dr. Anna Thomas – manager of the Australian Gambling Research Centre at the Australian Institute of Family Studies – commented on the impetus for such a national registry:
“One of the things that came through very clearly from our reviews was the need for self-exclusion to be something that happens across a wide range so that you do not have to self-exclude from individual operators or from this area and that area.
When we are looking at online gambling, obviously it can come from anywhere, so you need for someone to be able to access the system once and put the ban in place for themselves across the range of operators. That certainly would align to a national system.”
Those operators are largely aligned in support for erecting more stringent barriers to preclude problem gambling.
Representing the lobbying group Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) – which was formed late last year by online gambling operators Bet365, Betfair, Crownbet, Sportsbet and Unibet – executive director Stephen Conroy even suggested that stricter protections should be put in place:
“My members are very keen for a national system where people notify and then they cannot sign up across any other company if they are on that register. A sort of email-type process has been discussed and, to be fair, it is just a discussion at this stage.
We think there is more and there can be a stronger position – Senator Xenophon has articulated some of that – but we are supportive of the general direction.”
Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a member of NXT, offered her own reasoning for championing the registry, pointing out that the current model’s invasive nature acts as a deterrent to self-exclusion:
“It doesn’t make sense. A lot of these companies actually require that you fill out a form and get it witnessed for any barring to be put in place.
If someone is ashamed because they have a problem gambling, these sort of requirements are only going to make them less likely to go through with asking to be barred.”
The IGAB proposal was originally put forth in response to a 2015 government-ordered study of the online gambling industry titled Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering.
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