Gambling addiction is a major issue worldwide, and global regulation has been established to combat it

Gambling addiction can have far-reaching consequences, leaving individuals and their families in psychological distress. This impulse control disorder is defined by a persistent urge to gamble despite any potential negative outcomes it could bring. Problem gambling has the capacity to facilitate social, work and financial ruin; sometimes so severe as poverty or homelessness may ensue if left untreated.

The detrimental effects of gambling addiction have been on the rise in recent times, thanks to a rapidly expanding betting industry with more and deeper ways for people to gamble. With an abundance of options available online combined with seemingly insatiable demand from punters, it has taken its toll worldwide.

With the rapid expansion of online gambling, especially since the commencement of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are presented with a global market estimated to be worth $50 billion and 4.2 billion individuals engaging in it at least once yearly. Such levels put problem gambling on a scale that is difficult to ignore; making decisive legislative action paramount if our communities worldwide wish to address this risk adequately.

Australians are the most passionate gamblers in the world, with 80% of adults engaging in some form of gambling activities. The nation has a staggering $25 billion industry and 200,000 people classified as having “high-level” problem addictions to it. On average each citizen spends an incredible $1,300 per year on this pursuit – double that of Singapore’s rate!

Gambling in Australia is no stranger to a rich past – with the 1990s having seen an explosion of deregulatory activity, providing endless opportunities for potential participants. From poker and table games, right through to more modern offerings such as online sports betting — you can find whatever your heart desires!

The Casino, Gambling and Liquor Regulatory body recently imposed a maximum limit on the time individuals are permitted to gamble in Melbourne’s Crown Casino. Any failure from their side could bring hefty fines of up to $100,000.

Immediately evident is the clear and concerning effect of gambling advertising in Australia. With government inquiries into its effects, Adam Rytenskild, CEO at Tabcorp has declared

The AFL and NRL have expressed concern that increased regulation on gambling-related advertising could threaten their funding of grassroot sporting opportunities. While significant investments from betting organisations leave these leagues in delicate standing when commenting on regulations, the need for a balanced approach to such issues is paramount.

A recent survey of the Australian population revealed that gambling advertising has a significant influence on wagering behaviour. Three-quarters of respondents believed there were too many opportunities to gamble, and all reported being aware of the associated risks. Additionally, an overwhelming majority acknowledged that this typeof marketing had either triggered their first bet or caused them to engage in impulse betting – both contributing factors towards problem gambling.

As a consequence of the Casino Control Act of 1982, land-based casinos must adhere to austere regulations designed to protect players and maintain fair gaming practices. Recently, Star Entertainment—Queensland’s largest casino operator—studied these rules as they pleaded guilty in relation to seven charges related to illegally accepting credit card payments for gambling activities.

While it may seem easy to finance high-risk activities such as gambling with a credit card, the oftentimes costly consequences of overdrafting are undeniable. As Anna Bligh from Australian Banking Association puts it: “The very real problem is hard to ignore–problem gambling could impose tremendous financial strain on society.”

The potential for unsustainable debt has created an urgent call-to-action from the Australian banking sector to instate a full ban on credit card usage within online gambling activity. It is clear that substantial reform is needed in order uphold financial security and prevent consumers suffering repercussions of uncontrolled spending.

Despite some individual banks taking initiative to protect consumers from gambling related harm, RWA have been pursuing legislative solutions since August 2021 in order to provide a broad-scale protection. A ban on credit cards could lead to an undesirable disruption of the industry but only with enforceable legislation will Australians be adequately guarded against perilous financial risk associated with wagering.

The European Union has found itself struggling to keep up with the rapid growth of gambling in recent years. Out of the top 10 countries that gamble most around worldwide, 6 are located within Europe’s borders. With this decentralized and inconsistent system for regulating gambling activity, there is still much work left to be done before any meaningful progress can be made on a continent-wide level.

Germany has taken a strong stance on gambling, ensuring that no payments – including Visa or Mastercard-branded credit cards and PayPal transactions – can be used to fund betting operations within the country. This concerted effort is so successful it has caused many online operators to move away from central Europe; an example of legislation achievement which could pave the way for other countries like Australia fighting against illegal gambling activity.

As part of a major effort to regulate the gambling industry, Spain has updated its laws with bold measures designed to protect vulnerable players. Credit cards are now banned for use in online gaming and there is an individual limit set at €600 per player. Promotions targeted towards those considered more likely to be vulnerable have also been outlawed, with hefty fines imposed on any companies found breaking these new regulations (€1-50 million).

Spain’s recently implemented measures to regulate the gambling sector are met with criticism by some operators. They contend that these swift amendments do not give them enough time to adjust and question their effectiveness in guarding against addictive behaviors, which they suggest is contributing towards slower-than-expected growth rates.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is leading the way with its determined approach to protecting vulnerable people from gambling addiction. In 2020, it took decisive action by banning credit card payments for online casinos and bookmakers; this move was followed up in early 2023 when they issued record breaking fines of £19.2 million to William Hill and a further fine amounting to £7.1 million toward Kindred Group as part of their ongoing effort against illegal practices within the industry.

The UKGC recently conducted an in-depth investigation into the Gambling Act of 2005, garnering widespread media attention and prompting a data collection to drive future updates to legislation. These findings are expected to be published in the upcoming white paper.

Without proper collaboration between lawmakers, operators and those affected by gambling addiction, the necessary precautions to protect individuals are unknown. As a result, vulnerable groups may be left exposed with devastating consequences.

An international conversation between regulators and the most influential market players could create a healthier gambling environment, while quickly ironing out restrictions that are impeding financial success. This discussion is necessary to ensure vulnerable populations aren’t exposed to harmful risks associated with problem gaming.

To ensure the prosperity of both society and industry, an effective balance between responsible protection and growth must be established. Issues such as those raised in Spain should not repeat themselves elsewhere: Gambling continues to offer highly beneficial economic infrastructure that creates millions of jobs all over the world – something we cannot afford to take for granted or shrink away from.

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