Bookies banned from online sign-up ‘inducements’

AFR 11TH JUNE 2013 PHOTO BY Louise Kennerley -Israel Chamber of Commerce “NBN and the Digital Economy” with Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy, speaking a the Major Business LuncheonAttractive sign-up offers tempting ns to either open online betting accounts or refer a friend to open one will be banned under a new agreement struck by the nation’s gambling ministers.

Web-based wagering giants, including Sportsbet,CrownBet, Ladbrokes, Bet365 and and the Tom Waterhouse-led William Hill, will no longer be able to offer free bets, credits or other financial inducements to entice customers to join up and gamble through their services.

The agreement, reached at a recent meeting of gambling ministers, comes just weeks before the start of the Spring Racing Carnival, the biggest betting season on the calendar. It will be the last carnival where such offers can be used with implementation slated for June next year.

Restrictions on credit and “free bet” inducements will be included in a wave of new online gambling protection measures that will all be phased in over the coming months.

“Many ns enjoy a punt,” said federal Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, who chaired the meeting of ministers. “But we want to ensure there are reasonable protections in place and that individuals can have greater control over their gambling expenditure.”

Mr Tudge said limits on inducements were “sensible” and meant that “people aren’t encourage to spend more money when they may already be in trouble.”

Stephen Conroy, executive director of Responsible Wagering (RWA), the industry group representing many of the online bookmakers, has been working with the federal and state governments to build the new set of standards.

“We welcome, in particular, the decision by ministers to adopt RWA’s proposal to ban sign-up promotions,” Mr Conroy said after the meeting.

“This will ensure that ns are able to choose a preferred wagering operator free from any financial incentive.”

The development of the new consumer protection framework comes in response to a recent review conducted by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell.

Other major measures include a national “self-exclusion register”, set to be in operation by December next year, which will allow problem gamblers to ban themselves.

A voluntary pre-commitment scheme for online wagering will be implemented by next June, allowing gamblers to set “binding” despot limits, and a seven-day cooling-off period before limits can be increased again.

Mr Tudge said problem gambling in the online space was up to “three times higher” than other forms of gambling, and was exploding in popularity. About $1.4 billion was gambled online last year, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year, making it the fastest-growing form of gambling.

“Online gambling is growing faster than any other form of gambling and the incidences of problem gambling is higher,” he said.

“The gambling problems of the future will all come from the online space if we don’t put sensible protections in place now.”

Operators in the online wagering sector have been widely accepting of a series of concessions, and have been proactively involved in helping develop them, in a bid to improve their social licence and remain sustainable.

According to a summary of the recent ministers’ meeting, state and federal governments aim to release the national consumer protection framework by the year’s end.

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