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Victoria Implements New Online Gambling Rules

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Victoria has begun to implement new online gambling rules pertaining to marketing, promotions, and deposits. It is the first state to do so since the Australian federal government put the action plan in place in December 2018. In 2018, all governments committed to launching the National Consumer Protection Framework (NCPF). Victoria decided to subsequently launch first on Sunday, May 26.

December 2018 Commitment to NCPF

The entire plan was a drawn-out response to the 2015 O’Farrell Review, which analysed the impact of illegal offshore internet gambling.

Scott Morrison MP was then the Minister of Social Services. The goal of the investigation was to detail the size and scope of online gambling. It was also tasked with advising the government as to how it could strengthen regulatory enforcement and consumer protections.

The review concluded that customers were at risk from no legal protections and regulations. Also seen at risk from unregulated transactions was sports integrity. Meanwhile, the government was missing out on tax revenue. Morrison then outlined 19 recommendations, of which the Australian government initially accepted 14.

The primary recommendation was the establishment of the NCPF to stop the 15% growth rate of online wagering and help all governments in Australia implement a cohesive response to the problem.

In December 2018, the plan became official. At the time, Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher was at the helm. He noted the plan would apply to approximately 2.5 million active online wagering accounts maintained by about one million Australians.

The first two points of the 10-point plan were a prohibition on credits lines offered by bookmakers and a ban on linking payday loan companies to online sportsbooks. Those went into effect in February 2018. Further, bookmakers were to require identity verification of customers within 21 days of a new account opening. That’s down from the previous 90 days requirement.

At the time of the initial crackdown, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said 33 unlicensed operators withdrew from the Aussie market.

Victoria Steps Up First

The rules implemented last weekend require online wagering and gambling operators to comply with requirements regarding deposit limits on betting accounts, direct marketing restrictions, and a stoppage of promotions that encourage customers to continue wagering.

Online bookmakers like Ladbrokes and Sportsbet  are the primary target of the latter of those three requirements. It prohibits them from offering credits and vouchers – any promotions or rewards – for encouraging others to bet. This includes perks garnered by the original player from a friend or family member signing up for a new account.

In addition, the rules prohibit anything resembling “free bets” that require customers to continue betting before withdrawing any winnings. This applies to wagering requirements.

Online betting operators are also now prohibited from sending direct marketing promotions through text messages unless customers specifically request them.

And finally, players must be given tools that are easy to use and simple to understand regarding setting gambling limits or closing their online betting accounts. Victorian Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz noted:

“These Australian-first changes are about tightening the rules for online betting operators and empowering consumers to make better choices – and I encourage other states and territories to follow our lead. Victoria is the first state to sign up to the national framework because it offers greater protection to people who gamble online and gives them practical steps to better manage their gambling.”

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation CEO Shane Lucas also hailed the new rules. He said it was an important step in reducing and preventing gambling harm in the long run.

Others Slow to Follow

At this time, there have been no indications that other states will be soon to follow Victoria.

In fact, a wagering industry insider told the Sydney Morning Herald that New South Wales is “very far behind”. In response, an NSW Liquor & Gaming spokesperson said it already imposed the toughest restrictions on gambling inducements, including a gambling ad ban regarding inducements to gamble, and it increased the maximum fines for violations.

That same insider also said, the NSW government is considering its options regarding the NCPF through legislation.

Queensland may also delay any implementation. Especially as it was the last holdout with regard to committing to it in the first place. It did finally agree before the end of 2018. However, it may be one of the last to put any policies into practice.