Retail and super funds have waded into the Australian debate on problem gambling
Major retail and super funds that are members of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia have weighed in on the problem gambling debate Downunder, lobbying major banks to prevent their credit cards being used for online betting.
Reporting on the development, the Australian Financial Review says the trade body has expressed concerns regarding the growth in online gambling and the role of the banks facilitating it through credit card merchant facilities.
Responsible Investment Association Australasia chief executive Simon O’Connor told AFR there had been a ‘positive response’ from the banks and that discussions with the big four continue.
Independently, the A$160 billion AMP Capital investment fund confirmed that it too was lobbying banks to halt credit card use for online gambling.
The $1 billion UCA Funds Management has also approached the banking sector suggesting that credit card transactions should be withdrawn in favour of debit card arrangements.
AFR opines that the development is an indication that the problem gambling issue has now become a mainstream concern for investors.
O’Connor claimed that mainstream investors are reading the signals of a rapid loss of social licence for online gambling that could “quickly translate into a tightening of the regulatory environment, with particular risks for associated companies, including the banks”.
Several banks, including Citibank, Bank of Queensland, Suncorp and American Express, have stopped facilitating gambling transactions on their credit cards, AFR reports.
The lobbying centres on claims that the rise of credit card-funded online sports betting in Australia does not fit within a responsible lending ethos, and that this will cause financial risk and reputational damage to the banks as more case studies emerge of banks facilitating problem gamblers getting more deeply into financial difficulty.
Lobbyists are also pointing out to banks that providing a line of credit for online gambling poses a compliance risk under the banking sector’s responsible lending obligations.
The federal government has recently started clamping down on online gambling and indicated recently that new legislation within the next few weeks will include bans on the use of credit by punters using online gambling websites.
Land gambling facilities are also involved in the general gambling debate, and a recent attempt by hotel and supermarket chain Coles to campaign with pokie machine manufacturers for a A$1 bet limit on pokies hit the headlines when the company claimed that manufacturers such as Aristocrat, IGT, Konami, SG Gaming and Ainsworth Game Technology had refused to reconfigure the machines for a trial period.
The situation was exacerbated by the failure of Woolworths – the biggest poker machine operator in the country through its Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) joint venture – to back the Coles campaign on grounds that it was not based on hard evidence.
Litigation alleging that Aristocrat and Crown pokies are misleading and deceptive has added visibility to the problem gambling debate and the need for general gambling reform, AFR notes.
The legal action is being supported by the Alliance for Gambling Reform, which estimates that 60 percent of poker machine players go on to become problem gamblers, and that. In Australia more than A$11.5 billion is spent on pokies, equating to more than A$6 billion of problem gambling (assuming the claimed figures are accurate).