While less prevalent than other forms of gambling, online wagering is the fastest growing segment of the Australian gambling market. The proportion of people who placed a bet on sports, racing or other events via the internet is estimated to have almost doubled between 2012 and 2018 – from 16% to 34%. Compared to non-interactive gamblers, people who gamble online have been found to be more likely to be male, younger, have higher levels of education and income, participate in a larger range of gambling activities, and experience higher rates of gambling-related harm.
As part of the response to recommendations from a 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering, a National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering in Australia was developed with input and agreement from Commonwealth and state and territory governments. The intent is to bring Australian consumer protection measures up to date, to ensure they reflect best practice nationally, and to address the current regulatory fragmentation across jurisdictions. The National Framework consists of 10 consumer protection measures that provide tools for consumers and requirements for online wagering providers (licensed in Australia) to help mitigate harm related to online wagering activity.
The effectiveness of the National Framework is to be evaluated in four phases over approximately five years. AIFS was commissioned by the Department to develop and conduct the baseline study for the evaluation, prior to the Framework’s full roll-out and implementation.
- The baseline study aimed to address some of the gaps in the current evidence base and enhance understanding of:
- levels of online wagering involvement, prevalence of risky gambling behaviour, and levels of harm experienced
- consumer motivations to participate in online wagering and the means by which consumers seek to manage and control their wagering activity
- awareness, uptake and perceived usefulness of existing consumer protection features
- jurisdictional consistency in defining the responsible provision of online wagering
- readiness to implement and monitor compliance among service providers and regulators and any opportunities or challenges they foresee.
- Most of the wagering providers who were reviewed were found to promote or offer one or more types of consumer protection measures via their website (at the time of review); either those already in effect as part of the National Framework, or other tools or features similar to those to be rolled out over the coming months. For example, measures such as timed limits for deposits, spending, and withdrawals appeared to be commonly offered, and the feedback from the open text consumer survey responses suggested that customers found these limits helpful to counter impulsive or excessive betting.
- ‘Responsible gambling’ messages and links to gambling support services were made available by most providers, but the types and amount of messaging varied between providers. A number of consumers who completed the online survey reported that ‘responsible gambling’ messaging could be improved to reduce gambling-related harms among people who wager online.
- Regulators were generally very supportive of the Framework, describing it as a positive development in encouraging stronger consumer protection measures and promoting the regulation of online wagering in Australia. However, they also acknowledged there were still challenges in implementing measures consistently across jurisdictions, given different regulatory frameworks and issues of minimum standards