Hope for Better Responsible Gambling Practices as ACMA Introduces Self-Exclusion Register

Gambling addiction has become an increasingly pertinent issue in Australia. The issue appears to be getting worse as well. According to a recent study, the proportion of Australians deemed to have a gambling problem has doubled over the last decade to more than 1% of the country’s total population. Sadly, however, tackling the crisis head-on has been impeded due to the fact that the gambling industry donates millions of dollars to major political parties and contributes billions in terms of state taxes. However, the pervasive nature of gambling-related problems for individuals, households and society at large is now so serious that it is widely acknowledged that action is needed.

In response to the situation, Australia’s Communications and Media Authority, ACMA, recently unveiled its plans for 2022/23, where it established online gambling as a ‘compliance priority’. The country’s telecoms watchdog announced that one of its seven compliance priorities from the year would be the implementation of a self-exclusion register, which will cover both licensed online gambling portals and telephone betting services. The implementation of the self-exclusion register was particularly high on ACMA’s to-do list as they expressed an acknowledgement of the need to protect vulnerable people amid rising rates of problem gambling across the country. 

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How The Self-Exclusion Register Will Work

According to Nerida O’Loughlin, the ACMA, the self-exclusion register, which is to be launched in early 2022/23, will essentially provide a way for people to take greater accountability for changing their gambling habits and has been designed to complement the consumer protection measures that are already in place.

The main objective behind this self-exclusion register is for Australians to be able to regulate their gambling activity, whether it’s for three months or indefinitely. Bettors who choose to self-exclude will receive support and, more importantly, will not be exposed to gambling content. This includes but is not limited to casino advertisements promoting bonuses where players can access AU real money casinos.

In fact, O’Loughln stressed that once a gambler has made the decision to add themselves to the self-exclusion register, it actually becomes an offence for a licensed wagering provider to open an account in their name, take a bet from the person or market any gambling activity to the person. 

She went on to emphasize that the ACMA were strongly committed to enforcing these rules. As the federal agency that oversees gambling activity and sets standards with regard to advertising and consumer protection, the ACMA does have the power to investigate any reports of operators not complying with regulations.  

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The ACMA’s Broader Responsible Gambling Practices Agenda

Beyond the establishment of a self-exclusion register, other responsible gambling priorities listed by the ACMA include a crackdown on SMS and identity theft phone scams, as well as tackling misinformation on digital platforms.

O’Loughlin acknowledged that there had been a sharp rise in the number of SMS scams over the last year. In response to this, the ACMA will be introducing new rules with regard to telecommunications which will require service providers to track and block the sources of suspicious messages.

She also mentioned that the ACMA were continuing to work on the battle against online misinformation by reviewing the performance of various prominent digital platforms with regard to the recently implemented industry code and advising the government accordingly reference to the effectiveness of these policies.

Looking To The Future

These developments highlight the ACMA’s acknowledgement of the seriousness of problem gambling as well the role played by several different actors in terms of exacerbating these issues and essentially taking advantage of vulnerable groups of people. It is evident that the regulator is striving to use its authority to make the Australian market healthier and safer for the consumer.

Furthermore, the need to regulate the Australian gambling market more closely in order to improve safeguarding measures that protect users has been made evermore apparent with the recent announcement that Australia may soon be included on the 2025  Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. Moreover, along with the measures being implemented by the ACMA, the country will likely need to work on addressing the broader issue of money laundering, especially in light of the recent inquiry into the Star Entertainment Group’s business.