Australians have a gambling problem. According to a recent article in The Economist Magazine, every adult in Australia has an average of $990 in gambling losses. This, according to the magazine, labels Australia as the world's biggest betters. According to Gambling Insider, Australia's problem gambling is three times higher than any other country and is growing at an annual rate of 15%. While many Australians, and indeed many citizens of all countries, gamble responsibly, some people allow their addicts to get out of control.
Those addicted to gambling risk losing their savings, homes, jobs, and relationships. At times, the addiction becomes so powerful that some people turn to unethical behavior to support their gaming. Anecdotal stories are plentiful of people committing embezzlement to cover their losses. Some research has shown a correlation between problem gambling and domestic abuse.
To help curb the growing problem, Australia enacted the Interactive Gaming Amendment Bill. Scheduled to go into effect this year, the legislation provides eleven measures meant to assist in preventing problem gambling by placing controls on both domestic and offshore casinos.
To be diagnosed as a problem gambler, a person must show four of the nine criteria set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA). According to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the criteria includes factors such as the individual having to bet increasing amounts to achieve the same level of excitement. Other factors include thinking about gambling consistently. Lying to conceal their gambling activity. Going back to a casino to chase their losses. Losing friendships, other relationships, jobs and educational opportunities because of gambling. Gambling while under distress or while depressed. Relying on others to help them through financial difficulties due to gambling. The inability to stop gambling. Finally becoming upset or irritable when trying to stop.
The APA only listed compulsive gambling in the DSM in 1980. The problem has not been studied as well as other addictions. Partly this is due to its recency, but other factors also contribute to the lack of research. Gambling is different from physical addictions and does not have the same effect on the senses. There is also a bias since gambling is seen more as a behavioral problem as opposed to a physical addiction.
One of the outcomes of the Australian law is to better fund research into problem gambling. The government has committed an extra $3 million (Australian) for more research.
Consumers will also be offered the option to join a self-exclusion program. This program can be for as long as the consumer desires but for at least three months. The opt-out is being configured so that by using one app, access to all top online casinos Australia will be locked out. In the future, the Department of Human Services is considering ISP blocking as an effective means of controlling online wagering.
Other components of the new law will require offshore casinos to be licensed by the Australian government. Those that do not abide by the new law can be subjected to civil penalties of up to over a million dollars per day and face other forms of disruptive actions such as having their directors or officers listed on travel restriction lists. Another option to apply pressure is to hold payment processors more accountable.
Other top online casinos Australia will be barred from offering various incentives to create website accounts. Also, lines of credit and referrals to payday loan operators will be banned. One significant measure is a voluntary “pre-commitment” limit on how much a player can bet or place a limit to their losses.
Another requirement for casinos will be to provide periodic reporting of a user's account. This report will be shared with the Department of Human Services.
For the vast number of individual gamblers in Australia, the new law will have little effect and is aimed at the rich casino Australia. For example, odds-based sports betting and online lotteries are not included in the legislation. In sports betting, a bookie can offer betting prior to the start of the game. But, once the game begins, it is “interactive” and does fall under the conditions of the new law.
Opponents of the law spent large sums of money and time in efforts to lobby against it. Some operators have decided to leave the market altogether while others are cutting back operations. Other operators point out the law will leave a void in the market that will be filled with unlicensed casinos that care little about the country's laws, exactly what the government is hoping to prevent. Another criticism is that the voluntary self-exclusion is not a strong enough way to prevent excessive gambling.