In an effort to address the country’s rising problem gambling rates, the Australian government announced the launch of its self-exclusion program, BetStop, last week. The register will enable players to sign up for free, thereby excluding themselves from any gambling-related activities for a specified time period.
Going forward, all licensed operators registered in Australia will be obligated to collaborate with BetStop, aiming to reduce the risk of problem gambling and gambling-related harm for players in the country. As a result, all operators, including telephone-based gambling services and online platforms, will be required to block the accounts of players participating in the self-exclusion program. They will also bear the responsibility of refunding any outstanding wagers or remaining balances prior to closing the player’s account.
While it is true that for the most part the onus is on the player, operators and regulatory bodies like ACMA are also duty bound to take a proactive approach. Even fully-licensed and reputable AU no deposit casinos listed on NoDepositTracker should guarantee promoting the proper tools and channels, should players encounter signs of addictive behaviour.
Voluntary self-exclusion registries have already proven successful in other parts of the world, becoming a common practice in established gambling markets. GAMESTOP, a self-exclusion scheme for online casinos in the UK, offers players the ability to completely cease access and communication from all gambling services for up to 5 years. This space provides players who may be experiencing problem gambling behavior with the chance to regain control.
However, the online system is not without its issues, facing criticism after a 2019 BBC investigation revealed that players could modify account details, such as email addresses or phone numbers, and then re-register at online casinos. In response to this revelation, GAMESTOP attributed the oversight to the lack of a national ID system. As a result, the registry functions by matching the information provided to GAMESTOP with the information held by the online casino.
In Denmark, the Register of Voluntarily Excluded Players, ROFUS, commenced operations in 2012 and has since amassed 40,000 registered players as of February this year. Anders Dorph, the Director of the Danish Gambling Authority, pointed out that the rise in player registrations for the self-exclusion scheme demonstrates the service’s usefulness and the growing demand for it. The Authority’s successful awareness promotion has also contributed to this increasing trend, with the organization launching multiple campaigns on TV and social media. Furthermore, since 2020, all gambling operators have been mandated to include references to ROFUS in all their promotional materials.
Long Time Coming
The launch of BetStop signifies the culmination of the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering, following the successful implementation of staff training and consistent gambling messaging, which took effect last March. While the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) oversees the self-exclusion service’s implementation, BetStop will be powered by IXUP Limited. An awareness campaign promoting the registry is also expected in the upcoming months.
In addition, the government will introduce measures that mandate operators to verify customers’ identities during the registration process prior to wagering. This will replace the current system, which allows up to 72 hours to confirm a customer’s identity. With this change, the government aims to prioritize player safety and prevent underage individuals from engaging in harmful activities. This new regulation is projected to take effect by the end of September.
Furthermore, the government has committed to prohibiting the use of credit cards for online gambling, in accordance with recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry in 2021. The inquiry revealed that credit cards accounted for 20% of the deposits into wagering accounts. This raised concerns about individuals gambling with borrowed funds, leading to a cycle of problem gambling. Additionally, the government has implemented mandatory monthly activity statements, providing players with an easy way to review their wins and losses.
The government’s intention with these new changes is to continue lowering the rate of problem gambling and providing individuals the support necessary to regain control over their lives. While these measures will aid in minimizing harm, there remains additional work to address concerns within both online and in-person casinos.
Senior Writer and Editor Jenny Landsdowne has had a passion for the online gambling industry ever since its inception. Her role entails researching casinos and writing unbiased reviews about their offerings. She makes sure to give a holistic overview to her readers, because she believes equipping players with all the necessary knowledge is what makes them responsible gamblers.