The state and territorial governments of Australia are coordinating on the National Consumer Protection Framework, the first national framework to protect online gamblers. Rollout of the National Consumer Protection Framework is expected over the next 18 months.
The framework will require Australian operators a set of responsible gaming tools to control their gambling habits and mitigate the worst effects of problem gambling. In all, the framework will include 10 different nationally consistent protections for Aussie punters.
Paul Fletcher, who is the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services, said the framework is needed because the number of residents who engage in Australian online gambling has increased threefold over the past 10 years.
The National Framework provides a nice set of resources to help Aussie gamblers, though critics have said it helps the industry as much as it helps punters.
Paul Fletcher on National Framework
Fletcher said, as the number of Australians who bet online grew, it became apparent that more responsible gaming resources were needed. He said, “The National Framework will apply to about 2.5 million active online wagering accounts, or about a million people in Australia.”
“Most importantly, it will also apply to more than 240,000 Australians already experiencing significant harm from online wagering.”
The National Consumer Protection Framework offers a variety of strong protections for the estimated 1 million gamblers active on legal Australian gambling sites. The framework builds upon other protections, such as restrictions on gambling advertisements, blocks between license gaming sites and payday loan companies, and block on the IP addresses of rogue operators.
Australian Problem Gambling Tools
Problem gambling is an issue globally, but Australians spend more per capita on gambling than any other population worldwide. Reforms during the administration of Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard (2010-2013) were designed to curtail the ravages of problem gambling, but Coalition politicians saw those reforms as anti-business.
As soon as Tony Abbott took over the premiership in September 2013, he removed most of Gillard’s reforms. Without limits on ATM withdrawals and maximum bets, the amount spent on gambling by Australians increased greatly. Most of the growth was in land-based gaming venues.
IGA 2016 Online Casino Ban
When the general outcry grew, Malcolm Turnbull’s government took public measures by going against online casino operators. Publicly-traded international online casino sites left the Australian gaming market with the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment 2016 (in August 2017), but that did little to address issues Aussies faced from land-based poker machines.
In fact, land-based companies celebrated the move, because it eliminated a whole order of competitors.
The administration of Scott Morrison continues to go after online gambling as the main troublemaker. The National Consumer Protection Framework is designed to reform bookmaker betting sites and poker sites, which are still legal under Australian law.
Fewer Protections for Land-Based Gambling
The new protections should protect online sportsbooks and cardrooms from a ban on their services, so licensed operators should be happy to comply and it should help those who bet at online sportsbooks, racebooks, and poker sites. Of course, it does nothing to curtail unlicensed gaming sites, which have flourished in the wake of the IGA 2016 ban on online casinos.
Eventually, the Australian government might pass similar protections for land-based gamblers, though that is unlikely in the near-term. The National Consumer Protection Framework is directed at foreign businesses, but it is harder to target domestic operators who have large lobbying divisions.
Companies like Crown Resorts and Tabcorp can argue against new regulations, claiming they will hurt business and cost Australian jobs. The faceless offshore operators cannot make the same argument. The National Consumer Protection Framework might be a step forward, but it is more like a half-step.