New Self-Exclusion Policy in Australia

The Australian government has revealed plans for a new set of regulatory measures that will enable self-exclusion from all online gambling websites. Under the new scheme, gamblers will be able to make just one self-exclusion request to avoid all marketing material, correspondence and access to every online casino or sportsbook operating within the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) regulatory framework. This comes in light of several scathing reports of the industry in Australia and criticisms of the lack of consumer protections for online gambling customers.

Handshake between two corporate workers.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority has reached an agreement with operators to enhance self-exclusion capabilities. ©geralt/Pixabay

The pressure has been mounting internally for several months on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. An independent report published last year collected data across a variety of casinos and sports betting services; it concluded that between 2015 and 2016 Australians had lost a total of A$26 billion from online gambling. This represents an enormous amount of capital, with average annual losses amounting to A$1,200 per citizen, Australians are losing more money per capita than every other nation.

In the face of such damning statistical evidence, it is no surprise that Australia has clamped down hard against commercial gambling within its territories. This new action will not prevent people from gambling in online casinos – but it will certainly help people who have an uncontrollable addiction to gamble. Bu unifying casinos all under one sweeping proposal, the government and gambling industry regulators are taking decisive steps to stem the flow of capital from the pockets of gambling addicts into the coffers of big corporate casino bosses.

The Self-Exclusion Proposal Details

In theory, customers of gambling companies have been able to self-exclude from casinos for many years prior to this legislation being passed. One email to the customer service team of any licensed bookmaker or casino stating an intention to withdraw oneself from the services being offered and a quick account block would be implemented. The problem, however, in practice this prevention measure is weak and ineffective. Time and time again gamblers who had supposedly self-excluded would slip through the cracks and continue to gamble uncontrollably.

Under the new regulation, a self-exclusion register will run as a parallel organization that is independent of the gambling companies. This centralized database will enable a request for self-exclusion to be immediately implemented at all ACMA regulated operators for a period of at least three months. The new regulation is a key proposal, amongst many others, in a wider national consumer protection framework.

The proposals have been welcomed on both sides in a bi-partisan moment of acknowledgment of the massive scale of the issue at hand. Commenting on the proposal, the Families and Social Services Minister said:

This regulation should preserve Australians’ ability to enjoy a punt while putting in place sensible and targeted measures to prevent and support gamblers facing significant risks of harm. The self-exclusion measure will motivate gamblers to have periods where they do not gamble online at all as a way of changing their behavior and minimizing the risk they face of gambling-related harm.Anne Ruston, Families and Social Services Minister, Australian Government

The introduction of the National Self-Exclusion Register is another proposal in a growing repertoire of legislative actions against the gambling industry.

ISP’s Crackdown on Grey Market Casinos

Grey markets have been operating for a long time in Australia. Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino were such platforms, operating outside the framework imposed by the ACMA, and based off-shore. The two rogue casinos each shared a large proportion of the black market online casino business – and have been swiftly shutdown. Australian internet service providers (ISP) have now begun to block access to any platform that is ACMA non-compliant.

Since 2017 online casinos have been illegal in Australia forcing a prospering grey market of unlicensed online casinos to become a black market. For nearly two years the authorities have been powerless to stop the thriving underground gambling businesses available online to Australian customers. But after the ACMA received many complaints regarding the conduct of these rogue operators, decisive action had to be taken.

The catalyst, however, a damning report that estimated over A$400M was being gambled annually on illegal websites throughout Australia. Some may question the motivations for the subsequent government actions – as this amounts to almost A$100M in lost tax revenues. But the end result is the same, and in a joint effort between the ACMA and major Australian ISP’s, access to the black-market casinos is about to be completely blocked.

Australia Becoming Safe-Gambling Haven

With the recent government action against the black markets operating throughout the country, it has led many to suggest Australia is becoming a safe gambling haven. It is easy to understand how this conclusion has been drawn. The black markets have been shut down, self-exclusion is becoming a unified bilateral process that ensures addicted players are locked out, and customer complaints are responded and actioned upon in a hasty manner.

As with many types of addiction, in order for one to heal and overcome that must be an internal willingness to change. The government measures will help motivate gamblers to take periods where they do not gamble as a means of reinforcing healthy behavior.

The key to the success of the new scheme will be the user experience and the ease of implementation. In the coming weeks, Australians will be able to easily exclude themselves in a quick online process. With access to rogue online casinos being systematically blocked, only ACMA licensed operators will remain. Australian gambling companies will be circumstantially only those who adhere to a strict set of principles and guidelines to protect the safety of gamblers.

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