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The Lottery Corporation has called for an exemption from looming gambling reform which seeks to prevent punters from gambling with credit cards due to the “low harm nature” of lotteries.
The $10 billion lotteries giant urged the Senate in a submission lodged on Tuesday to uphold recommendations to exempt lotteries from the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill and allow customers to continue buying scratchies with credit cards.
The Lottery Corporation’s Sue van der Merwe. Credit: Arsineh Houspian
The Lottery Corporation is the only gambling group to lodge opposition to being included in the credit card ban, with former parent company Tabcorp, Sportsbet and gambling lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia all submitting support for the proposed amendment.
The federal government brought forward legislation to ban online betting companies from accepting credit cards following the recent parliamentary inquiry into online gambling harm which recommended a ban. Punters who visit casinos or use poker machines are already prevented from using a credit card to make a bet.
The Australian Banking Association said it welcomed the policy change to bring online gambling in line with in-venue gambling and said the onus should be on the wagering providers to implement the ban.
The government is still considering a swathe of other recommendations following the inquiry. These include banning inducements across the sector and the phased outlawing of online gambling advertisements, to the outrage of sporting, racing and media bodies.
The Lottery Corporation’s chief executive, Sue van der Merwe, said the credit card ban carve-out would prevent “negative impacts” on newsagents and other retailers, despite overwhelming support from anti-harm bodies including Financial Counselling Australia.
“The [inquiry] committee’s recommendations reflected the finding that lotteries have a lower harm profile and recommended that lotteries are exempt from a ban on online gambling service providers of wagering, gaming and other gambling services from accepting payment by credit cards, including via digital wallets,” said van der Merwe.
The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association said domestic licensed lottery products were not wagering products and “present very low levels of harm”.
Financial Counselling Australia’s Lauren Levin said in a submission to the Senate: “The lottery sector and its products cause serious gambling harm and should also be subject to the same consumer protection legislation as other online forms of gambling.”
Levin hit out at The Lottery Corporation’s categorisation of the industry as “small businesses” after it posted $3.5 billion in revenue for the 2023 financial year and said lottery businesses now operate through digital platforms via omnichannel marketing and are no longer dependent on small retail operators such as newsagents.
Levin said harm prevention advocates had been “asleep at the wheel” in relation to the potential for harm caused by lotteries. This is because much of the gambling reform debate has been focused on online wagering, despite the vast majority of gambling harm caused by poker machines.
“With the spotlight on online gambling, the lotteries and newsagent lobby managed to plant the seed that lotteries were benign and small newsagents were deserving of sympathy, simply for being small businesses; that they didn’t need the same consumer protections and claimed a special status. They were unchallenged as we were time poor and distracted. We were wrong,” she said.
Responsible Wagering Australia – which represents some of the biggest wagering companies including Sportsbet and Ladbrokes – said it has been working with its members, the financial services and banking industry and the government to “investigate technical options” for implementing the proposed ban.
“We share the government’s view that wagering customers should only be able to conduct their wagering activity with their own clear funds. There should be no capacity directly, or through the use of intermediaries such as digital wallets or pre-paid cards, for customers to use a credit card issued by a licensed entity to fund their wagering,” Sportsbet said.
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