Australian Financial Body Warns On Online Sports Betting

Halting lines of credit and the introduction of national player exclusion facility suggested

The Australian media are highlighting a report from Financial Counsellors Australia which is concerned about growing incidents of problem gambling due to the proliferation of online sports betting, and suggests federal government measures that should be implemented to combat the issue.
The full report can be accessed here:
http://www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au/getattachment/5cf44306-d643-4e60-8f33-2922659c4de5/FINAL-PDF-Duds,-Mugs-and-the-A-List-The-Impact-of-Uncontrolled-Sports-Betting-low-res.pdf
FCA spokesperson Lauren Levin claims that gambling addiction is leading to suicides and financial ruin for some problem gamblers, and gives examples of a man who lost the proceeds of a house sale and another who lost A$90,000 in a week. Another problem gambler, who accrued debts of A$860,000 made 127 bets in one day.
Levin has suggested that measures to address the situation should include an end to lines of credit for sports gambling, more efficient mechanisms for limiting losses, and the introduction of a self-exclusion register.
"Sports betting companies should not be able to give gamblers credit, then take them to court six weeks later when they can't pay. It also means a ban on gambling by transferring funds from a credit card, payday loan or similar source," Levin said.
"Online sports betting magnifies the difficult issues already associated with gambling.
"Compared to poker machines for example, people can lose much larger amounts of money, they lose it far more quickly and they lose it hidden in the privacy of their homes.
"Sports betting is portrayed as a bit of fun, but what financial counsellors are seeing is lives being destroyed. Many clients have huge debts and are groomed to get even further into debt. The end game is debt collection, bankruptcies, broken families, court orders to seize assets, forced home sales, and even sadly, suicide."
The FCA report, titled 'Duds, Mugs and the A-List: The Impact of Uncontrolled Sports Betting' is being pushed by anti-gambling politician Sen. Nick Xenophon and is apparently based on the experiences of financial counsellors and their clients.
"[Gamblers] are often encouraged to bet by the offer of 'free bets' or 'bonus bets'. Unsolicited credit may also be provided, often getting people into debt they cannot afford," the report claims.
Senator Xenophon says he will introduce legislation in the spring sitting of Parliament to cut off the provision of credit to gamblers by sports betting firms in the wake of the new report.
"Increasing numbers of Australians, mostly young men, are falling prey to the predatory approaches and easy credit of sports betting firms. It is deeply troubling that these firms, many of them owned in the UK and Ireland, can use unregulated credit to hook young gamblers on betting. It has to stop," Xenophon said in a statement.
Compared to more traditional forms of gambling, internet sports betting 'turbo charges the risks of problem gambling', the Senator claimed.
"Internet sports betting firms are using aggressive, high-tech strategies to target young men, increasingly to the point of ruin," he alleged.
"Chief among the tactics employed is providing credit to entice new gamblers and then more and more credit to keep them engaged in betting, often at higher and higher stakes or in order to chase mounting losses," he said, adding that sports betting firms also use 'matey' one-on-one email and phone contacts, free tickets to corporate boxes and the like, to make clients feel important and special so as to keep them betting.
The media focus on problem sports betting comes on the heels of a recent study by the Australian National University's Centre for Gambling Research, which found that at least 1110 Canberrans are losing more than A$10,000 a year on gambling, most of it on poker machines, and another 21,000 adults are losing between A$1000 and A$10,000, representing about 8 percent of the ACT adult population.
The report noted that the figures were self-reported and could significantly under-estimate the amount actually spent.

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