Despite the potential for minors to accrue debts, online gambling companies operating inside Australia provide offer greater protection against problem gambling than retail outlets, according to Sportsbet chief executive officer, Cormac Barry.
At the federal inquiry into interactive and online gambling and gambling advertising and the Interactive Gambling and Broadcasting Amendment (Online Transactions and Other Measures) Bill 2011, Barry said the use of third-party verification services as well as intelligent analytics software meant that online gambling offered greater security against problem gambling.
“There are occasions where people will try and open a second or third account to try and get more money on — customers have limits on how much they can bet on each selection — so we run real-time matching software that will pick out common characteristics with similar accounts and that will flag and alert to our fraud team,” he said.
“The same would apply with people who have self-excluded — if they try to open a new account with the same email address or phone number or used a different address, the software would pick it up and the account would be suspended by the fraud team.
“The efforts that have been made by the online gambling industry are considerably more sophisticated than other areas of the [gambling] industry.”
Commenting on the ability of minors to access online gambling, Barry conceded current regulatory arrangements — which gave some 90 days for new customers to be properly verified — allowed for minors, as well as adults, to create online gambling debts of up two thousand dollars.
“You can still play, but you cannot benefit from that activity: You cannot withdraw money ... you can still lose money” he said.
“It is possible [for minors to gamble during the 90 days]."
Barry said the prospect of requiring people to provide a full 100 points of identification before opening an online gambling accounts would be too high for the industry.
“A barrier of that level would be very onerous and would only serve customers to offshore sites who do not have that level of regulation,” he said.
“The key thing when we are looking at regulation is to strike a balance and allow the business to operate and have processes that protect the customer — whether they are minors or responsible gamblers.”
Commenting on national initiatives to combat problem gambling, such as the mandatory pre-commitment scheme, Barry said the company was supportive of the creation of a set of federal standards to ensure that online betters were assured of “high levels of protection”.
Barry also said the company supported the creation of a program where licensed Australian gambling and wagering operators made annual financial contributions to a national gambling problem fund to be accessed by gambling research and counselling organisations.
In addition the company supported the establishment of a national register of self-excluded problem gamblers to facilitate co-ordination between licensed online gambling operators.
Citing the Productivity Commission, Barry said electronic gaming machines accounted for some 75 to 80 per cent of problem gamblers. Citing Queensland Government research, Barry claimed there was no evidence of problem gambling having been increased due to the internet since 2001.
“Nor is the instance of problem gambling higher among those who online gamblers in comparison to those that gamble with land-based retail outlets,” he said.
According to Barry, Sportsbet had some 700,000 customers, of which more than 95 per cent are based in Australia. Some 900 of these had used Sportsbet’s self-exclusion service in the past financial year and 1600 customers set deposit limits.
The self-exclusion service allows customers to stop themselves from accessing phone-based wagering, Sportsbet’s website or face-to-face betting in the Northern Territory.
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