Tabcorp argues banks should be responsible for handling credit card gambling blocks

Banks and the like are the ones with data on the financial status of a customer and have the infrastructure to block a credit card from being used in an online wagering situation.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Gaming giant Tabcorp has supported the call for banning credit card use by Australians on online gaming platforms, such as betting apps, but its CEO believes such a mandate should be the responsibility of banks.

Appearing before a joint committee as part of its inquiry into the regulation of the use of financial services, such as credit cards and digital wallets, for online gambling in Australia, Tabcorp CEO David Attenborough said while his organisation would not oppose a ban on credit cards for online wagering, it would oppose a ban for online lotteries.

"I'm not sitting here saying I accept a ban on credit cards for gambling. I'm saying if the committee decides it's going to ban it, we're not going to oppose it for online wagering," he told the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services on Friday.

Attenborough said only 14% of transactions through online wagering use a credit card. People already cannot use a credit card in a retail environment -- that is a pub, club, or race track, for example.

He said a large chunk of those using credit cards gamble responsibly and use it for convenience, but conceded there is a proportion that is much higher risk, and said his organisation recognised this and "wraps a whole bunch of controls around it".

"I don't think people should gamble with debt," he said, citing again the reason for not contesting the ban on credit card use.

"If that is the solution the committee chooses to do, we will support that, but that legislation needs to be applied to the financial sector because they're best set up to be able to implement that," Attenborough said.

The financial services sector has previously testified to the committee that a self-regulated model would allow the gambling sector to adapt to new entrants in the payments space, such as digital wallets and cryptocurrencies, whereas heavy legislation would require too much change to keep up.

"Banning credit cards is a blunt instrument and you're better to put layers of extra risk controls around customers that use them, because at least you've got them in a bucket where you can watch them very closely and have extra scrutiny on them," Attenborough said in response to the proposition.

"I think banning them just drives them -- if they've really got a problem they're going to find a way around to get their money where they want to gamble it, and then we've got to make sure we understand where that's happening and it might not be visible to us anymore because it will go via a digital wallet, via an intermediary of cryptocurrency, or something and we'll never even know there was a credit card involved."

See also: Data centre fire 'likely' behind TAB's weekend-long outage

With the use of credit cards in online wagering declining, at least on his platform, Attenborough said legislating the ban would speed this up.

"It is an old world form of transacting that's declining and you're just going to speed up that and then move it into a multitude of different wallets where the only people that will really know what's going on will be the financial sector, not us, we won't have a clue," he said.

"If we got more information from the banks that a card was suspect, we could shut it down. If the banks notified us that this was a problem, we would be able to stop dealing with that problem, but this flow of information doesn't happen."

In addition, if the ban wasn't a legislated one, stakeholders such as racing bodies and the merchant that processes the transactions, in this case Mastercard, could interject, Attenborough added. As such, if it becomes law, he said his organisation would need "three to six months at best, nine months at worst, depending on regulators".

Attenborough said, however, a problem gambler would always find a way to get around blocks or bans, adding "it will be the banks that will be able to find them".

On self-exclusion, Attenborough believes more data-sharing needs to occur.

"We've been quite tough on closing accounts and encouraging customers to exclude and it really frustrates [me] when I read articles that these customers have then gotten themselves into big trouble carrying on betting somewhere else," he said.

"It's really critical that there is a much better way [to] protect people who have got a problem. It's still got some privacy issues around it because the way the national exclusion register will have to work is customers will have to lodge themselves into it and there will be some customers that might exclude from us, but don't choose to lodge themselves into the national exclusion register."

He also claimed that the only way platforms could properly deal with the issue would be through a national regulator.


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