Victoria first to implement new consumer protection controls

22 May 2019

Victoria will this weekend become the first Australian state to introduce strict new nationwide online gambling rules covering marketing, promotions and deposits.

From Sunday (May 26) Victoria will implement regulations agreed late last year by regional and federal authorities to commit to the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering.

Under the rules, online betting operators in Victoria – home to 6.4m people - must comply with requirements for betting account deposit limits, restrictions on direct marketing and a ban on perks that encourage consumers to continue betting.

Victoria’s Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Marlene Kairouz, said the new rules would make the state’s gambling sector the best regulated in Australia.

“These Australian-first changes are about tightening the rules for online betting operators and empowering consumers to make better choices – and I encourage other states and territories to follow our lead,” said Kairouz.

“Victoria is the first state to sign up to the national framework because it offers greater protection to people who gamble online and gives them practical steps to better manage their gambling.”

From Sunday wagering service providers will be banned from offering credit, vouchers or other rewards to an account holder as an incentive to refer their family or friends to open a betting account. Operators will also be prohibited from providing complementary or free bets on the condition that account holders can only use the winnings to continue to bet, rather than giving customers an option to withdraw the funds.

Consumers must proactively opt-in to direct marketing, and must be offered simple and easy-to-use tools to set limits on the amount of money that can be deposited. Customers must also be able to easily close accounts.

The changes were welcomed by Shane Lucas, the chief executive of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

He said: “Providing individuals with easily accessible tools and information to monitor and manage their gambling are important steps in reducing and preventing gambling harm.”

The National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering, designed to offer “nationally consistent protections for consumers of Australian interactive wagering services” is to be implemented across the country by May 2020.

The federal government introduced the new rules following the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering and over fears about the prevalence of problem gambling among online punters. It claims that the rate of online problem gambling is three times higher than other types of gambling.

Speaking in December 2018, Paul Fletcher, the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services, said: “The measures are designed to reduce the harm that can be caused to individuals and their families by excessive or at-risk online wagering.

“The National Framework will apply to about 2.5 million active online wagering accounts, or about a million people in Australia.”