Australia’s Upper Parliament has approved a bill to place a near-blanket ban on using credit cards for online gambling, marking a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to tackle problem gambling. The legislation, called the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Credit and Other Measures) Bill 2023, not only prohibits the use of credit cards and other credit-related products for online gambling but also extends the ban to digital currencies.

The bill, which was introduced in September, was passed by the House of Representatives in November, paving the way for its passage through the Senate, where it was approved on December 6. This means that within six months, online gambling with credit cards will be effectively banned across the country.

In addition to banning credit products, operators that fail to enforce the ban could face fines of up to AU$234,750. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be granted new powers to enforce the penalty provisions and issue penalties for breaches of the ban.

The legislation will not take effect immediately, as there will be a six-month transition period to allow operators, payment providers, and consumers to adjust to the new rules. This period will begin once the bill receives royal assent.

The bill is the result of extensive consultation with various stakeholders, including operators, harm reduction advocates, wagering and lottery providers, and banking payment organizations.

While the bill has been welcomed by many, some have expressed concerns about the exclusion of lotteries and keno from the credit card ban. Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) CEO Kai Cantwell expressed disappointment, stating that lotteries are the most prevalent form of gambling in Australia and are commonly accessed by people in low socioeconomic communities.

Cantwell and RWA are calling for a complete blanket ban on using credit cards for any form of gambling, arguing that consumer protection measures must apply across all forms of gambling to effectively reduce harm.

The bill’s approval reflects ongoing efforts to address problem gambling in Australia, with the bill implementing recommendations set out by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services from November 2021. Calls for a credit card ban grew louder in 2020 when Great Britain introduced a similar ban, prompting certain parties to put in place their own bans, such as the consumer-owned banking group Bank Australia, which barred the use of its credit cards for gambling in October 2021.

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