Australia has no online casinos licensed in the country even though federal law allows states and territories to license and regulate internet slots and table games. However, home and mobile sports betting is licensed for punters there.
According to the country’s primary banking trade organization, there’s a big gap between financial protections online and on land so the Australian Banking Association (ABA) is asking the government to ban the use of credit cards at online sports betting sites.
The request comes decades after credit cards were banned for gambling at the land-based sportsbooks and casinos there. The licensed online gambling industry did not even exist at the time land-based credit card gambling was prohibited but is now worth an estimated A$50 billion a year.
Credit Cards Already Banned for Land-based Gambling
The ABA’s CEO, Anna Bligh asks: “Why should it be possible to do something in the virtual world that is prohibited in the real world? Every pub with poker machines, every TAB and every trackside bookie already implemented this 23 years ago.”
Bligh wonders if gambling, as a product “is this something we should be providing credit for given what’s happening to our customers?”
According to a report in the Guardian, banks are not on a moral crusade with the initiative but instead are looking out for their own business interests. That said, the association is quite aware of the damage undisciplined gamblers can do to themselves very quickly with potential long-term negative consequences.
“This is just a product that is not suitable for credit,” said Bligh. “You can accrue a very, very large amount of debt in an incredibly short period of time and have nothing to show for it.
“Banks have seen the harm that is being done and they are very conscious of their responsibility as lenders to ask [hard questions].
The initiative would tend to lend itself more to ideation than implementation due to the way merchant category codes work. The international merchant category code (MCC) that has been used for online gambling transactions since soon after the US changed its payment processor rules for online gambling with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) can also be assigned to transactions involving charities that fundraise by selling lottery tickets.
MCCs are 4-digit numbers listed under the international standard ISO 18245 which currently doesn’t have a code for lottery tickets sold primarily for charity fundraising. In order to create one, advocates would need to apply through ISO/TC 68, Technical Committee 68 on Banking, Securities, and other Financial Services in Geneva, Switzerland. However, changes to ISOs such as adding a new MCC, are usually not entertained for industries generating less than $10m in revenues.
The ABA doesn’t seem interested in paying for changes through the Geneva process, indicating that gambling operators should have to deal with and pay for compliance on their own after a grace period to give them time to adjust.
Licensed Operator Body Supports Ban
Responsible Wagering Australia is an independent body for wagering service providers based in Australia. RWA members include well-known names such as bet365, Betfair, Entain, PointsBet, Sportsbet, and Unibet.
A spokesperson for the group said: “The RWA and its members have been at the forefront of the work to implement a credit card ban – having led the discussions with the banking industry to determine the technical solutions, and delivered them to the government. We cannot speak for other non-member gambling companies.”
While offshore casinos can run credit card gambling transactions through a form of potential money laundering by assigning “the wrong code” to deposit transactions, a few Australian banks have already banned their branded credit cards from being used for gambling transactions, which presumably disallows the purchase of lottery tickets sold for charity fundraising with a credit card. Bank Australia, Bank of Queensland, Citibank, and Suncorp will no longer process MCC 7995.
MPs Sharkie and Wilkie are each preparing legislation to address the issue as well as to introduce suspicious transaction reports to authorities with Rebekha Sharkie’s private member bill focused on banning online credit card gambling and Andrew Wilkie’s bill focused on proceeds of crimes and suspicious transaction report obligations.
Sharkie also wants operators to be required to inform bettors of ongoing losses prior to accepting further bets.
Source: Australian banks urge Albanese government to ban use of credit cards for online gambling, The Guardian, March 26, 2023
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