Online gambling operators may be banned from granting unsolicited credits to their customers in South Australia.
Under new regulatory changes to the SA Gambling Code of Practice proposed by the state’s Independent Gambling Authority (IGA), credit should only be offered after a thorough due diligence process. In addition, gaming companies will also have to immediately process withdrawals from gaming accounts and will have to disclose the so-called spotter’s fees.
Operators who breach the code will face fines of up to $100,000.
There are a total of 19 licensed online gambling companies offering services within South Australia’s borders with 74,000 registered betting accounts. Minister for Business Services and Consumers Gail Gago said that the proposed changes were prompted by a report published by Financial Counselling Australia in August, stating that online betting agencies were engaged in somewhat questionable practices concerning the offering of credits to customers.
“In some cases, account holders are offering credit ranging from $200 to the tens of thousands [of dollars] with no consideration given to the person’s circumstances, their capacity to repay or their well-being,” said Gago.
Gago added that customer service agents are specifically employed to contact account holders, encouraging them to opt for various products offered by a given operator, unsolicited credits included.
The IGA gave gambling operators 28 days to comment on the changes. Once approved, the new rules could take effect at the beginning of 2016.
Commenting on the changes, Robert Chappell, Director of the IGA, said that they are a balanced response to the findings outlined in the report.
“The practices that have been documented are very seductive and some of the things that have been revealed in the report and other forums that we’ve recently been to suggest the courting and the grooming of wagering account holders is quite pernicious,” said Chappell. “This is very much a hidden problem. People don’t like talking about it.”