For nearly 20 years, Australian punters have been unable to use credit cards for cash advances in pokie lounges and casinos. However, this doesn’t apply to online gambling, where customers can use their credit cards as much as they like.

This topic makes headlines every few years, usually because one politician or another adds it to their agenda. That’s the current state of affairs, although the oppositions has also got themselves a mouthpiece.

Enter Andrew Wallace

This latest debate got started when Queensland MP Andrew Wallace called for a ban on using credit cards during online gambling. He claims that banks have a “social responsibility” in this matter, and he wants them to create a voluntary code of conduct. The end result: online gamblers could only bet with their own money, not cash borrowed from the credit card companies.

Referring to it as a “no brainer,” Mr. Wallace went on to say, “We know that people pay 22% or thereabouts in interest on their credit card balances; that’s a very dangerous mix.”

He concluded his argument by adding, “You can’t use a credit card to go into a TAB and gamble on the horses or the dogs. You can’t use a credit card at a casino, and you can’t use a credit card to gamble on the pokies.”

Brent Jackson to the Rescue

It should come as no surprise that the gambling industry has its supporters. While some do so out of concern for personal freedom, most are motivated by large amounts of money. I’ll leave it to you to decide which category that Brent Jackson falls into.

Brent Jackson of Responsible Wagering Australia

Mr. Jackson is the CEO of Responsible Wagering Australia, which is a lobby group representing industry giants such as Sportsbet, Ladbrokes, Neds, and Bet365. It might shock you, but he believes that there’s nothing wrong with using credit cards to gamble online.

Here’s a selection of quotes that should sum up his opinions on the matter:

  • “We think punters behave responsibly.”
  • “They [online casinos] do keep an eye out specifically for unusual behaviour and strange behavioural patterns and activity that is not considered normal and might be risky.”
  • “We can take a number of interventions aside from banning them completely, we often contact customers directly as this is happening.”
  • “What we’re not seeing is any evidence of a problem out there at all.”
  • “We think that consumers should have the right to choose and directly manage their betting preferences.”

He also stated that gambling online was safer than playing at a land-based casino or pokie lounge. The reason for this is strict legislation and real-time monitoring of gambling behaviour.

The ABA Drags Its Heels

Near the end of 2019, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) spoke to their membership about whether credit cards should be banned for gambling apps. Eighty-one percent favoured restrictions or an outright ban, while 12 percent couldn’t make up their minds. The remaining seven percent opposed any manner of restrictions.

The ABA also labelled gamblers as “vulnerable customers.” However, they decided to drag their feet on any kind of blanket policy. The main reason: concern over possible violation of anti-competition laws.

Of course, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said they were willing to grant an exemption, especially for something involving a major benefit to the public. They also mentioned that in the past they has supported voluntary conduct codes among banks.

Despite this, the ABA seems too cowardly (or greedy) to take action. Meanwhile, Aussies are constantly signing up for new betting accounts, with the biggest growth coming from those 18 to 34 years old.

By the way, Sportsbet enjoyed a 108% increase from April to June in 2020, when the COVID-related shutdowns were at their highest. This resulted in profits jumping from $96 million to $191 million.

That’s a difference of $95 million. I wonder how much of that comes from credit card charges?

Additional Reading

For more news stories involving gambling, please check out the following: