Self-exclusion policies allow gamblers to add themselves to a list that automatically blocks access to online gambling accounts either for a certain amount of time or permanently. Variations of this scheme have already been implemented in many countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, and South Africa.
While it is optional for gambling providers in some countries, others take self-exclusion further and make its addition mandatory for all operators. In addition to being blocked from gambling, players opted into this scheme will also not receive casino-related promotions and advertising. Casino websites, even in jurisdictions that don’t enforce it join the program voluntarily to help address problem gambling and limit compulsive wagering.
Australia needs to implement Self-Exclusion practices
Australia has one of the highest gambling rates in the world, with 80% of the adult population casually engaging in games of chance. According to the Responsible Gambling Foundation, Australian gambling spending is over $24 billion annually, which is mostly attributed to ubiquitous pokie machines and advertising practices.
Self-exclusion practices at this stage are optional for online operators, with legislators arguing that they should be coded into law. Senator Anne Ruston said in a recent statement:
It is a measure that we believe will motivate gamblers to have periods where they do not gamble online at all as a way of changing their behavior and minimizing the risk they face of gambling-related harm.» Source: The West Australian
Anyone who opts into self-exclusion schemes will not receive any gambling-related advertising. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will be responsible for limiting their access to any materials related to punting or online casinos. It includes an email list, targeted search engine advertising, promotional offers, and personal messages.
Players opting into self-exclusion schemes can remove themselves from the list after an agreed amount of time, or close all their online gambling accounts permanently. Websites are expected to make self-exclusion easily accessible in the personal cabinet while restoring accounts should involve consulting with a customer support representative. In extreme cases, it may include even a mental health professional.
This move follows recent bans on credit card use in gambling from major Australian banks. It’s implemented to protect problem gamblers from wagering money they can’t afford, helping avoid financial distress associated with the practice.
Australia iGaming Market
600,000 Australians play pokies at least weekly, with slot machine profits in the country beaten only by Nevada in the USA. Problem gambling in Australia is classified as a public health issue, with anywhere between 0.5 and 1% of the population experiencing significant problems from gambling. Further, 1.4-2.1% of them experience moderate risk that may make them vulnerable to problem gambling.
While 80% of the adult population casually engages in some form of gambling, some surveys show as many as 96% had gambled for money or possessions. Gambling losses for adults are between $1,150 and $1,288, regularly putting Australia at #1 losses per capita, followed by Singapore and Ireland.
At the same time, the iGaming market continues to grow:
- The overall market size is over $40 billion, including mobile casinos and social games;
- Online casinos make up $16 billion, which almost doubled during the 2010s;
- Globally, iGaming is projected to grow by up to $80 billion in 2024.
As lucrative countries for gambling businesses, it’s no surprise that Australia and New Zealand are taking measures to address problem gambling in 2020. Thousands of players are searching for the best online pokies for Australian players where advertising focuses heavily on free spins, sign-up bonuses, and the ability to win real money.
While iGaming was growing behind the scenes during the 2010s, in the new decade, this industry is expected to receive more governmental oversight and regulation.
Problem gambling is classified as an addiction that stems from biological, environmental, and genetic factors. They’re people who have a problem controlling their game patterns and spending more than they can afford – often ending up in financial distress. Studies into problem gambling rely heavily on surveys and industry data, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact number of gamblers suffering from it.
Studies argue that anywhere between 30% and 50% of casino profit proportion comes from problem gamblers. In some cases, the industry attracts disadvantaged individuals – especially in countries like India, Kenya, and others where risks associated with gambling aren’t as well-known to the public.
Problem gamblers often go into debt wagering money they can’t afford to lose. Like individuals suffering from other forms of addiction such as drugs and alcohol, they compulsively engage in the practice and can’t stop themselves without intervention or limiting exposure. It creates a downward spiral that causes financial and mental distress.
Different countries have their approach to problem gambling. For example, the UK Gambling Commission sees it as a public health issue, while in the United States, responsibility is placed on individual and local state governments. Australia only recently recognized it as a known risk, leaning towards fighting addiction with appropriate regulation.
Why should we care?
Like any other addiction, problem gambling is a social responsibility. Even major iGaming companies such as IGT, Aristocrat Leisure, Scientific Games, and others accept this fact and implement responsible gambling policies. Social pressure from capitalizing on addiction would cost billions in lawsuits and regulations. For corporations, a commitment to help victims of addiction is a matter of financial survival.
At the same time, other gamers benefit from helping those suffering from addiction because it makes the activities more enjoyable. On one level, if developers aren’t able to profit from problem spending at all, they have no choice but to create better casino experiences for everyone. On another, problem gambling awareness helps prevent new players susceptible to it from going over the line and spiraling into a vicious cycle.
Australian implementation of self-exclusion policies is one of many ways to address problem gaming. There’s a long list of other practices that help tackle this problem, including:
- Wagering limits, whether self-established or imposed;
- Supporting software and peak time locks;
- Casino deposit limits;
- Loss limits, blocking accounts after a set amount of bets;
- Timeouts, and software keys are given to friends & family.
As the iGaming industry evolves, more ways to tackle responsible gambling will become available. However, it doesn’t mean that individual players should leave it in the hands of companies and legislators – the best way to protect against compulsive gambling still lies within local communities.
Mental health professionals recognize the risks of problem gambling, and intervention programs exist to help victims of addiction. Anyone who suffers from problem gambling or knows people who do is encouraged to consult a hotline or support group in their region.