Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks on Interactive Gambling Amendments

13 November 2023

These amendments seek to close a loophole that remains in this legislation. The legislation, in substance, bans the use of credit cards and cryptocurrency for online gambling, and I acknowledge this is long overdue. This bill delivers on the government's April commitment and implements recommendation 2 of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. Some 80 per cent of Australians believe gambling with credit cards should be restricted or banned. That is from clear research by the Australian Banking Association. Warringah constituents want to see action taken by all levels of government to reduce gambling harm.

I am, I should note, concerned at the slow implementation of recommendations from that joint standing committee and other committees, including those in the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs' aptly named report You win some, you lose more from June 2023. Numerous recommendations came out of that, and we absolutely need a national strategy in cooperation with states and territories. We know that through COVID gambling took on a whole other dimension, and it had a significant impact on communities. We saw a huge increase in online gambling, and the government is only just catching up. So it is really important that, when we are addressing our use of credit cards in relation to gambling, we do so in relation to all forms of gambling, including lotteries, which may lead to addicts engaging with unsecured and small creditors such as payday lenders, pawnbrokers and family members.

This bill is welcome because it prevents people from gambling money on credit—money they do not have. But it fails to close all the loopholes, thus undermining its efficacy. The use of credit cards for online lotteries should also be banned, and this is what these amendments go to. Financial Counselling Australia noted recently:

Lotteries are now operated by corporate giants with multi-million-dollar salaried executives, mega profits and online platforms. They have a slick online marketing model with tickets available 24-7. KenoGO's online lottery offers a draw every three minutes! … KenoGO is showing us the future of lotteries, where it is possible to buy a $20,000 basket or more every day of the week.

This will be able to be done on credit cards unless we close this loophole. Financial Counselling Australia went on:

This is a product that will cause some people to lose their homes and relationships.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform echo these sentiments. They also oppose the carve-out for online lotteries, and say the harm from online lottery and keno products is being understated. As outlined in their submission to the Senate committee:

On the Lott app you can easily spend $10,000 on tickets immediately, and Keno is a maximum of $1,000 every 3 minutes—

using credit cards, so it's clear these are still tools for harm. If credit cards are allowed to continue to be used in these instances online, we are still feeding a beast and we are still leading people into to great harm.

Amidst a cost-of-living crisis, allowing people to incur further debt via their credit card through online lotteries is a major problem and is frankly irresponsible. Their marketing is compelling. It's drawing people into thinking they will win big—that these will be the lucky tickets. But the odds of winning a division 1 lottery are one in 8,145,060 and the odds of winning a larger keno jackpot are one in 8,911,711, so clearly very long shots. Meanwhile, people are incurring those debts on credit cards and paying high interest rates on those debts.

Online lotteries absolutely need to be included in this bill, and I urge the government to support these amendments. I appreciate some are saying the issue is the not-for-profit sector. They rely on the sale of raffle tickets and often use of credit cards, so they are concerned this will curtail their fundraising abilities. But I would say to the minister the problem is that classifying online raffles, for example, in the same category as these big multinational lottos and kenos, with their slick marketing campaigns, is very dangerous. I ask the minister, who is here, to either support these amendments or tell this place and the Australian people what the government will do to protect our gambling addicts from excessive spending via their credit cards on online lotteries and keno products.