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Bookmakers are required to hold punters to account, but former player says that is not enough

Written by Javed Iqbal

Betting companies will now be required to send clear statements of gambling wins and losses to their customers following the implementation of federal rules this month.

With Australian game losses among the highest per capita in the worldare the new monthly activity reports intended to help players make better decisions by providing a clear picture of their spending.

“For some people, they might look at it and say, ‘Well, this is just too much – I think it’s confrontational and I need to do something about it,'” Financial Counseling Australia policy director Lauren Levin told ABC Radio Perth.

“It can lead to a phone call [a gambling support group] or ring one of the financial advice services or the national debt hotline and say, ‘I think I need to speak to someone about this.’

The change was among the recommendations of the 2018 National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Betting, which came up with 10 measures to address increasing social harms related to online betting.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfarethe country’s losses from legal gambling amounted to $25 billion in 2018-2019, creating serious consequences for the economy, mental health and relationships between gamblers and their families.

A study by the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government found that people who received activity statements were more likely to reduce the amount of their bets, although this would not reduce the frequency of their bets.

A ‘tokenistic’ measure

Peter, whose full name has been withheld for privacy, is a former gambler who lost his career and his marriage before finding support through Gamblers Anonymous.

An example of an activity statement showing the amounts of gains and losses and a graph of the account holder's spending.
An example of the activity statements players will now receive from betting companies.(Delivered)

Peter is now providing support to others via Gamblers Anonymous, saying the change is a “tokenistic” measure that avoids taking more drastic and controversial steps that would have a greater impact.

“The single biggest impact we can have in Australia would be for governments to ban electronic gambling advertising in the same way they did for alcohol and cigarettes,” Peter said.

“They banned advertising for them because it was costing governments a fortune through the health system, whereas gambling is very much a hidden epidemic where the costs are largely borne by the player, the players’ families, the players’ employer, the people they steal from. .”

Peter said he had seen a “scary” rise in members who were young men betting on sports through phone apps.

He said providing activity statements could provide a “slight advantage” to new players who had not yet realized the scale of their spending.

“But for anyone who is an established gambler or who has an established gambling problem, it will have no effect at all,” Peter said.

Gamblers focus on winnings

University of Sydney School of Psychology Professor Sally Gainsbury is director of the Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic.

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Javed Iqbal

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